Managing Malware on the Mac

Malware on the Mac is a growing nuisance, and in the past year the scope of the problem has been expanding. The Mac was largely immune to these types of attacks in the past, but increasing platform popularity has brought a new reality. Safari on the Mac seems to be particularly vulnerable to browser hijacking events, but Chrome and Firefox can also be affected.  

mac-securityIf you’ve gotten a message on your computer that there has been a virus detected, not to shut down and call Apple or another 800 number immediately, you’ve experienced malware. If you restarted and were taken back to the same warning message, you experienced malware. These practices are scams designed to get people to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for tech support services they don’t actually need.  

Whether or not you’ve experienced malware or security threats on your computer, here are some recommended steps which can help protect your data and computing experience:

Stay Current with a Supported OS X Version

Apple issues security patches for the current OS X release and two versions back. As of this writing (April 2016) that means supported OS versions are:

  – OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks
  – OS X 10.10.5 Yosemite
  – OS X 10.11.4 El Capitan

If your Mac is running OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard, 10.7.5 Lion, or 10.8.5 Mountain Lion then it’s time to upgrade. Most browser vendors now follow Apple’s lead with their own security updates and support.

Stay Current with Browsers, Flash and Java

Both Flash and Java remain ongoing security targets. Java use has declined quite a bit on the web, but Flash is still in fairly common usage. All Safari updates are provided through the OS X Mac App Store. Current versions for other web software can be found here:

  – Google Chrome installer
  – Mozilla Firefox installer
  – Adobe Flash installer
  – Oracle Java installer (if needed)

Install Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus Software

  – MalwareBytes AntiMalware for Mac – a very nice free tool (formerly AdwareMedic) which cleans up most types of infections. Must be run manually each time.

  – Sophos Free Home AV – an automated tool that scans files and emails for viruses or other infections. Also finds many Windows viruses that Macs can receive and re-distribute.

Install Ad Blocking Browser Extensions

Many malware attacks originate via scripts run in third party ads on websites. Running ad blocking software prevents many of these ads from being shown, negating their ability to infect your computer.  

While controversial from a revenue standpoint, I have found ad blockers to be a viable security aid. Websites you visit often and wish to support via ad revenue can be whitelisted.

  – Safari AdBlock plugins
  – Firefox AdBlock plugins
  – Chrome AdBlock plugins

Posted by Adam Rosen on 10 April 2016

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Conserve Battery Life on Your Apple iDevice

As anyone who has used an iPhone or iPad knows, running low on battery power is an issue we all occasionally face. When recharging is not an immediate option, here are some ways to conserve power on the go:

low battery

– lower the screen brightness as much as possible
– turn off WiFi and BlueTooth; if that isn’t enough,
       put the device into Airplane Mode
– disable background processing for apps
– disable unnecessary notifications and use of location services
– use Safari content blockers (in iOS 9) and close old Safari tabs

Here is a good article covering how to make these and other changes.

Posted by Adam Rosen on 30 December 2015

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Use Built-In Dictation for Hands Free Typing

If typing on your Mac or iDevice isn’t your thing or the situation isn’t convenient to use a keyboard, speech recognition software can be quite useful. Apple provides built-in speech-to-text capability on Macs, iPhones and iPads called Dictation, and it works well with no training required.

DictationMac Dictation – to utilize Dictation on the Mac, first go to System Preferences –> Dictation & Speech, and make sure Dictation is turned on. Then go to any area which requires typing, place the cursor where desired and hit Fn-Fn (the function key twice in a row). You’ll see a microphone icon appear, and spoken text will be transcribed. Hit Fn-Fn again to disable.

iOS Dictation – to utilize Dictation on the iPhone or iPad, tap in any field that allows text entry. To the left of the space bar on the keyboard will be a small microphone key. Tap this, and spoken text will be transcribed. Hit Done when finished.

Posted by Adam Rosen on 24 October 2015

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Backup your iDevice to iCloud and iTunes

If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, there are several ways to backup your device. Backups are important if your iDevice is damaged, lost or stolen, and are useful when upgrading from an old model to a newer one.

Cloud-BackupBackup to iCloud: to backup wirelessly to iCloud, go to Settings –> iCloud, sign in with your AppleID (if needed), then tap Backup. Here you can enable the iCloud Backup option which saves device configuration settings, account info, photos, messages, etc.. Apple provides 5GB of free storage, and if you need more you can purchase upgrades directly from your device.

Backup to your computer: before there was iCloud there was iTunes, and the program can still be used to backup your iDevice. When you connect your device to your Mac or PC iTunes will sync music, photos, apps, etc., and will perform a full backup if iCloud Backup is disabled. If iCloud backups are enabled, you can still run a manual backup by selecting your device in iTunes when connected, then clicking the Back Up Now button on the device’s Summary tab.

Posted by Adam Rosen on 17 June 2015

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Check Your Battery When Trackpad Doesn’t Click

One common problem with aging laptops is gradual loss of the ability to click the trackpad. It usually starts slowly as increasing pressure is needed to have the system register a button press. The problem then gets worse and worse, until the trackpad is unable to be depressed at all.

Trackpad with Failed BatteryThis problem is usually caused by a failed battery. In Mac laptops the battery sits below the front half of the machine, under the palmrest and the trackpad. When Lithium ion batteries fail they are designed to swell and balloon to a larger size. This is a safety feature to contain explosion (generally a good thing), but can affect laptop operation.

If the battery fails the swelling exerts force on the top and bottom cases, reducing the small amount of space available to click the trackpad. Often the top or bottom of the laptop also gets pushed out a little (or a lot) for the same reason. Replacing the battery typically fixes the trackpad issues.

If you have an older MacBook, MacBook Air, PowerBook, iBook or non-Retina MacBook Pro the battery is easy to change. Retina MacBook Pros and the new MacBook have glued-in batteries (sigh) and require dealer servicing.

Posted by Adam Rosen on 9 May 2015

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