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Virus Protection, the Mac Way

Logo The next time someone tells you that Macs are inherently safer than PCs and have built-in protection against viruses, adware and break-ins, don’t listen. As is seen by the recent attack on iWork users, the fact of the matter is that Macs – old and new – are just as vulnerable as PCs are to an onslaught from talented, determined and creative hackers. It’s just a matter of numbers because 95 percent of the world’s personal computers use the PC standard, so they’re a bigger target.

That said, it looks like the hacker community has caught up and is now attacking Macs as well as PCs. Linux computers may be next, but that’s another story. Regardless of whether you have a couple Macs in the art department, a computer room full of them or a student body that uses MacBooks, they all need protection.

Iantivirus main Unlike with PCs, there aren’t a dozen antivirus programs to choose from. On the other hand, the new iAntiVirus from PC Tools does a good job of protecting a computer while not being in your face all the time. A free download of the full program is available, and the 3.6MB package has all you need to try it out. On the other hand, it only works on OSX versions 10.5 or higher. So, my first step was to upgrade my MacBook Pro’s operating system, which cost $125.

Before it gets down to work, the software goes online to update its library of virus and malware signatures, which it uses to identify dangerous software that might slip on to the system. Next, the program gives the computer a full scan to look for resident viruses. It took 10 minutes and 12 seconds, half as much time as Norton AntiVirus and found two minor adware programs that it missed.

Regardless of whether it’s a virus, spyware or a Trojan program, iAntiVirus can find it and render it harmless to the computer. Whenever the program finds a threat, it stashes it in a quarantine folder that keeps it separate from the rest of the system. Unlike PC virus software, iAntiVirus only goes after threats to Macs, so is much more efficient and fast.
On top of periodic full system scans, iAntiVirus watches out for all sorts of threats trying to get in through the backdoor. The program protects in real-time by looking for new threats entering the system, such as a teacher using an infected USB memory key or a kid straying into online danger zones.

Compared to Norton AntiVirus and others, iAntiVirus has a remarkably simple and straight-forward interface. For instance, rather than separate programs to scan the system, examine problematic software and update the program’s malware library, iAntiVirus does it all in one place. This should simplify the life of the school’s teachers and IT staff in the event of a computer emergency.

The interface itself is a model of simplicity. Rather than dozens of choices, there’re two big bars in the center for starting a scan and for making sure that the system is protected. Below are key stats, like the version in use, last scan and a link to the quarantine section. 

Iantivirus schedule In the upper right corner is a button for SmartUpdate, This grabs the most recent software and threat signatures from the PC Tools Web site. While you can choose to have it automatically get updates daily, every other day, weekly or monthly, you can’t set the time of the download so that it occurs when the system isn’t being used, like the middle of the night; it’s a planned upgrade for a future version of the software.

I used iAntiVirus over the course of three weeks and plan to keep an eye on it with a MacBook Pro notebook that’s used everyday for about four hours a day. It found several more viruses when I threw a slew of nasty software at it, and it caught the same items that Norton AV did.

The old saying that if you have to ask the price of something, you can’t afford it doesn’t apply here. To start, you can get and use the program for free. The catch is that it can’t be for business or commercial use, which means that schools are OK to use it for free. The downside is that you don’t get any support, but you do get the needed updates.

On the other hand, it costs only $30 per system to get a full license for the software – about half that of the competition – and each copy can be used to protect three systems. This includes full support and help if something goes wrong. The price drops to $650 for a 50-seat license, making it very economical for an entire school or district.

For those of you who are tired of overpaying for Mac virus software, having to spend hours learning how to use it and waiting for it to finish its scans, iAntiVirus will seem like a breath of fresh air.

PC Tools iAntiVirus

    + Excellent price with discount
    + Simple interface
    + Automatic updates
    + Free version

    - Requires OSX 10.5 or higher
    - Can’t set time for automatic updates


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