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Security

About a month ago, the world learned of one of the first malware threats to do real damage to a large swath of Mac users. Known as “Flashback” because it masked itself as an update to Adobe Flash, the trojan reportedly infected over half a million Mac users. Once the trojan successfully installed itself in a user’s system, it harvested user names and passwords from the web browser and sent them back to who knows where. It took Apple about a week to respond to threat, issuing a software update that removed “the most common variants” of the trojan, but that’s still a lot of user names and passwords that got compromised.

Prior to Flashback, Macs had been largely regarded as virtually free from malware. After Flashback, many Mac users might want to start thinking about getting themselves some security protection. With that being said, Mac-directed malware is still a bit of a rarity. Which is why, if you’re going to add third-party protections to your Mac, you might want to start your shopping with a price comparison. That’s where BitDefender Virus Scanner comes in. It’s a virus scanner at the perfect price: free. The question is, will you get what you pay for?

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We’ve seen countless Chicken Littles screaming that the sky is falling for years, but in 2012 we seem to be seeing more stories than ever about the supposed end of the superiority of Macs when it comes to security flaws and outside attacks.

New reports are pouring in weekly of threats that Mac users need to be aware of: Flashback, Luckycat, password security flaws, the list goes on and on.

In our poll question this week, we want to know whether you buy into all the doom and gloom or you think it’s all a bunch of hype like we’ve seen in the past. There’s a basic but critically important question that needs answering: Do you still trust your Mac’s security? By this I mean the built-in security measures provided by Apple.

Once upon a time, most Mac users would’ve scoffed at the idea of downloading third party virus protection software, is this still the case or are these days long gone? Are we joining the Windows crowd in the need to personally take steps to safeguard our computers against outside threats or are Macs still safe “right out of the box?” Cast your vote in the poll and then argue it out below!

As more of our lives are shared online, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of the things we want to keep private. You may be surprised how much of a trail you leave behind just from browsing the Internet. From saved cookies to form history, your personal information is scattered around your computer and the web.

Many applications on your Mac, including browsers, offer different settings to let you control what is and isn’t saved. However, it can be a complicated process to manually go through dozens of settings screens to ensure that everything is set in a way that will protect your privacy. PrivacyScan from Secure Mac helps you easily delete all of these potentially sensitive pieces of information.

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Apple has pushed two critical security updates to Java for Mac OS X this week in order to patch up some critical security loopholes found in the previous release of Java, version 1.6.0_29. The updates, which were released on Tuesday and Thursday of this week, are available via Software Update for Snow Leopard users running OS X 10.6.8 and Lion users running OS 10.7.3.

The updates were released after a Russian antivirus company, Doctor Web, discovered that Macs were vulnerable to the BackDoor.Flashback trojan, which saves an executable file on your Mac’s hard drive then downloads malicious code from a remote server.

The trojan has affected an estimated 600,000 Macs worldwide, with the majority located in the United States (around 55%), Canada (around 20%) and the UK (around 13%). An analyst at Doctor Web also reported that 274 of these infected computers were based in Cupertino, California – the same city as Apple’s headquarters meaning that some of Apple’s own computers may have been affected.

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We live in a world where protecting our privacy isn’t just a matter of principle. Letting your personal information get exposed can harm you financially if your credit card information is obtained, and your credit rating can be damaged if someone steals your identity. Your emails and chat messages can contain sensitive information that you want to ensure only go to their intended recipients.

Our computers hold abundant amounts of personal data that most of us would rather not let get into the wrong hands. You might be surprised to see just how many applications are constantly sending data out of your computer, and it is important to be sure that all that stuff is going to places you trust. Fortunately, there are apps that help us monitor what our computers are sending out, and allow us to selectively block transmissions. Here we are going to look at two excellent apps called Little Snitch and Hands Off that aim to do just that.

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Our laptops are valuable devices. They connect us. Inform and entertain us. And yes, sometimes distract us. Dealing with a lost or stolen laptop is not typically a thought we ponder in our busy lives. The good news, there are some powerful tools out there to assist us in the recovery of a missing laptop. The better news, today we’ll take a look at Prey – a free, open-source laptop recovery system that you can begin using immediately.

The developers at preyproject.com make the claim that Prey just works. Let’s take a look at how Prey gets the job done.

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Whether it’s at Starbucks, the mall or Motel 6, free WiFi hotspots are popping up everywhere. While you’re using those hotspots, you might unknowingly be giving away some seriously personal information to an opportunistic hacker or two, including your social network, email, and even your online banking account login credentials.

With personal information like that at risk, you might be tempted to stop using those free hotspots altogether, but an app called Cloak by Bourgeois Bits hopes to alleviate those risks by providing Mac users with a corporate grade VPN service built into a consumer level app. Read on to see if Cloak really is the perfect companion to public WiFi.

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Our featured sponsor this week is SpyCam, the perfect utility for conducting private video surveillance with your Mac.

Security apps can be a pain to setup, but Spy Cam is so simple that anyone can use it. As soon as I opened up Spy Cam for the first time, I immediately knew how everything worked. You simply set the interval for how often you want Spy Cam to automatically record a movie using your Mac’s built-in camera and indicate how long each movie should be. From that point on, you can easily keep track of who is snooping around on your machine.

If you want to check up on your Mac from a remote location, Spy Cam has your back. It can easily be configured to save the video files to your Dropbox folder, making them accessible from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Spy Cam is hands down one of the easiest ways I’ve seen to use your Mac for a little covert spying. At $9.99, it’s also much cheaper than many competing security apps (no monthly fees, just download the app and use it forever).

Go Get It!

Go grab Spy Cam now and start keeping a closer watch on your Mac or even your home. Anything that you can point your Mac’s camera at, you can record. Spy Cam can was just released on the Mac App Store so be sure to cruise over and check it out.

Think you’ve got a great app? Sign up for a Weekly Sponsorship slot.


Today’s discussion is a classic one: are Macs really impervious to the malware threats so rampant on PCs? Due to the rapidly changing nature of technology and the ever-increasing acceptance of Macs, this is a question that needs to be periodically revisited.

We’ve recently seen Apple’s bulletproof security claims become quite tarnished in light of threats such as MAC Defender. Read on to see if you should be concerned.

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It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a tried-and-tested backup solution. One that ensures all your data will be safe – whether you suffer a simple hard drive failure, or your house burns down. This type of system gives you immense peace of mind, and removes that guilty feeling in your subconscious caused by not backing up.

Today I’m going to walk through a few options for creating what I would consider to be an “ideal” backup solution for the Mac. This is by no means the only way to handle the safety of your data, but one that’s particularly robust and cost-effective.

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