While last year’s Mac Defender malware attack was a cause to be more alert, it wasn’t quite the Mac apocalypse many expected. Fortunately, there are reliable and free ways to protect your Mac.
iAntivirus by Norton is an on-demand virus scanner that can check and protect your entire system. While running it’s barely noticeable and uses very little memory or processing power.
On our December 2012 iMac, a scan of almost 290,000 files took about 10 minutes. Although it was reported as using about 80 percent of our CPU while scanning, we were able to keep working without interruption. It’s important to realise that iAntivirus only scans files on demand. It doesn’t sit in the background and check files as they come into your system or as they are accessed. Given the current state of Mac threats that’s probably a reasonable approach although you should always stay vigilant.
In addition to scanning your Mac, either entirely or just specific folders, iAntivirus can check your Facebook wall to ensure that you’re not accidentally spreading malicious links or content.
Kaspersky has long been known as one of the leaders in protection against malware. Its Mac product delivers on-access and on-demand scanning. That means files are checked for malware as they come into your Mac.
The Kaspersky preferences can be easily set on a screen that looks like Apple’s System Preferences. You can choose whether to only scan files directly accessed by your Mac or to also scan your internet activity.
While sitting in the background, waiting for files to be accessed, Kaspersky used about 0.2 percent of our system’s CPU and just 14MB of memory – we didn’t notice it running other than an extra icon on the menu bar that we could use to initiate manual scans or configure the Parental Controls.
The Parental Controls allow you to set time limits on internet access and control what websites are accessed, which social networks can be used and what personal data is shared. If you’ve got kids this is a handy addition that is easier to manage than OS X’s built in controls.
Kaspersky Security for Mac has a free 30-day trial so you can check it out before buying.
Sophos Anti-Virus checks your files as they’re being accessed. When threats are found, they’re safely stashed so they don’t cause you any grief. The app can also search within archives and compressed files.
Installation is straightforward although you can’t get Sophos via the App Store – you’ll need to go to www.sophos.com.
While it’s running, other than a toolbar icon Sophos is unnoticeable. It uses just 0.1 percent of the CPU and 14MB of memory. This is a far cry from the old days when Mac users would feel their systems come to a crawl whenever they installed a security product from any vendor.
Although the user interface is quite bland, Sophos is very easy to use. Clicking on the menu bar icon provides quick access to scanning functions and the Quarantine Manager.
You can choose to exclude particular folders from the on-demand scanning if you like as well as what action to take if a problem is found.
Although Sophos lacks some extras like social media scanning it’s a competent application that does what it says with a minimum of fuss.