Sophos Launches FREE Anti-Virus Software For Mac

Keep on Guard!

Well most Apple users would tell you they don’t need anti-virus anyway, viruses and malware are a Windows problem – not something the hi-tech hipsters need to worry about.

And let’s face it, even if you run Windows you don’t really need to run anti-virus either if you practice good web-habits. But with the amount of idiots running OSX on their shiny Macbooks – malware may well become a problem for the platform.

It’s not a problem right now, the stats for malicious software on Apple platforms are still minuscule compared to the threats on Windows and even on Linux.

Sophos released a free of charge Mac anti-virus product for consumers on Tuesday in a bid to highlight the growing security risk against the platform and to shake fanbois out of their complacency.

The business-focused internet security firm is making Sophos Anti-Virus Home Edition for Mac available for download at no charge – with no time limit, and requiring no registration. The technology is a cut-down version of Sophos’s pre-existing anti-virus software for Macs and will ship with detection of thousands of malware strains including Trojans and rootkits. Sophos has no plans to release an equivalent free of charge Windows anti-malware scanner.

Three well-established freebie security scanners (AVG, Avast, Avira) already exist even without considering Microsoft’s own Security Essentials software. Although commercial anti-virus packages for Macs have been sold for some time by the likes of Intego and Symantec – and more recently by Kaspersky and Panda – Sophos’s software one of very few freebie scanners for Macs available to date.

It’s a pretty interesting move from Sophos tho, business wise, as they have no plans into strong-arming users into paying for a commercial version by releasing a crappy crippled version under the guise of ‘free’ software.

Sophos has always been a company with strong technology, so even as freeware I’d expect this to be fairly capable software. There are other commercial AV systems out their for Mac – but this is the first one from a reputable vendor that is free. I mean there’s ClamAV – but in all honestly who would want to rely on that?

It’s not the first freebie scanner for Macs currently available, contrary to claims in the first version of this article. Others including, most notable, ClamAV exist.

Past threats to Mac users have included malware disguised as pirated software and uploaded onto P2P file-sharing networks, supposed video codecs that actually contain a Mac-specific Trojan horse and strains of Windows malware capable of infecting virtual installations of Windows running on a Mac.

Apple acknowledged the malware problem by integrating rudimentary protection against a handful of Mac Trojans in Snow Leopard, Sophos notes, arguing that users running its software are provided with more comprehensive protection against potential threats.

Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos, explained that while the picture is different in enterprise environments, “home Mac users aren’t protecting themselves from malware”.

Theriault admitted that Windows threats counted in their millions dwarf the number of strains of Mac malware, which can be counted in their thousands, but maintained there was a need for protection, whatever sales people in Apple Stores might say to the contrary. “We want to raise awareness,” she explained.

Either way it’s an interesting move from Sophos and we’ll have to see where it goes from here. They claim they won’t charge for it, but who knows? And will this pressure other AV vendors that have paid versions for Mac to release free versions for Home users. Much like the Windows vendors do (Avira, Avast!, AVG etc).

More on the software, together with hardware compatibility information, can be found out from a download micro-site here:

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition

Source: The Register

Posted in: Apple, Countermeasures, Malware, Security Software

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4 Responses to Sophos Launches FREE Anti-Virus Software For Mac

  1. Bogwitch November 2, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    I have to take issue with your assertion that Windows users do not require AV software if they practice good web habits. There have been several examples of previously safe websites being laced with malware, most recently, we see the Nobel Peace Prize site.

    I guess Sophos see the number of MAC users as low enough to not warrant producing a commercial version of their AV software for the MAC. I’m sure they’re making plenty from their Windows sales.

    As MACs increase in popularity, the malware base will too. I see three types of users of the MAC:
    1. The historical users are graphic designers who (generally) are not particularly IT literate.
    2. Some security professionals. This came as a suprise to me but generally it is for their personal use, office automation, etc. and they have x86 boxes for Windows/Linux.
    3. Complete computer novices. They have been sold on the ‘more secure’ aspects of the MAC (that, and the pretty casework). Unfortunately, their ‘MAC is secure’ standpoint will almost certainly come back and bite them in the rear; perhaps free Sophos will delay this a little.

    • Darknet November 3, 2010 at 5:22 am #

      Yah, it does happen. But with NoScript + Adblock + being sensible you are pretty safe. I ran a Windows machine for something like 7 years with no AV software and didn’t have any major issues. I think poor downloading habits and opening random e-mail attachments are where the mass infections happen – not random 0day browser based exploits. Agree with your types of Mac user, the majority are non-technical – so if malware does start popping up it could have serious consequences.

  2. DaFyre November 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    There is nothing wrong with using ClamAV on Linux or Mac. I’ve even used a Windows port to rescue a few windows systems as well. I have to say that I don’t currently use ClamAV as my first line of defense, but I keep an updated copy of it in my toolbox!

    Kudos to Sophos for offering a product for the Mac systems as well! It is long past time for other vendors to support the growing user base!

    • Darknet November 3, 2010 at 5:23 am #

      There’s nothing wrong with it per-say, but it doesn’t stand up to commercial AV software IMHO. It’s a useful tool to have no doubt, but it’s not exactly cutting edge and doesn’t have a super high detection rate. I have used it before on Linux based e-mail systems where there was no budget for commercial AV software.