Mac Antivirus, yes or no?

One of the first things I thought about when I switched to Mac, was the eternal question of all switchers: Should I put an antivirus on it? Is it necessary?

I asked around, Googled it, and I came to the conclusion that the chance of infection was so remote, that I really didn’t need it. I think that this is a very personal choice, some say you should, some say you don’t need to. On the Macs at home, I don’t use any. On the Macs at work I wasn’t using any until about one or two months ago. I read on the web, that a study by a security firm, found that some Macs were harboring Microsoft viruses, and that made me change my mind. You see, I told people to be careful with their Windows PCs, and be mindful of USB infections that can happen at clients that don’t keep their computers in check.

As a matter of fact, most of the times I’ve seen infections at the office, it has come from a USB stick that someone used at a client’s PC. I didn’t want to pass a virus to someone at the office without knowing. For this reason, I started looking into getting an antivirus for the Macs at work. There are many options, some free, some paid, and all the ones I know of will detect Windows viruses as well as Mac’s. I first installed ClamXAV. It works fine, it will scan only when you tell it to, and it has a function called Sentry, which you can tell to scan a folder on demand, or set a folder that it should always watch, in my case I set the Downloads folder. But after using it for a couple of weeks I found it too geeky, and I could imagine the other Mac users at the office calling me every time it did something.

I then tried Avast!. I used Avast! when I had Windows, and it worked well. When I switched to Mac, they only had a paid version, they now have a  free version. You can tell it to do a folder or file scan, a full scan of your hard drive, it will install a browser extension that will warn you if a site looks fishy, and it will update itself every day. All you have to do is install it, and open a free account with them (the same way it works on Windows). I haven’t noticed any performance hit, and it also hasn’t found anything. On a related note, I would disable Mail scanning, it will bug you when a secure email connection is established, because it can’t read it. I use Sparrow for three Gmail accounts I have, which fetch mail very often an it was driving me nuts. That’s the only downside so far.

However, as I said before, I only do this because I don’t want to send a Windows virus to my coworkers. At home, I still don’t see the need, as I still believe the chances of getting infected are very low. Also, I’ve always felt that antivirus programs give a false sense of security and are certainly not infallible. Antivirus programs are only effective after the developer has discovered a threat and added the definition to the database it uses to compare. So common sense should always prevail. Don’t think that because you installed this or any other security suite you’re OK.

At an office or school environment, where there are PCs and Macs, it is a good policy to have antivirus on the Mac. Even if doesn’t find anything, it’s just an extra layer of security.

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