It is an established fact that there aren’t any viruses or worms “” ie computer malware that can spread and replicate without user interaction “” that target Mac OS X. Yes, there are a couple trojans out there, but they require you to willingly authenticate and install the bad stuff. Still, what about spyware? Are the rest of us at risk?
Well, an obvious choice for ferreting out and removing spyware is SecureMac’s MacScan (download, 4.5MB), which is available as a 30-day demo or with a full license priced for $29.95. This application, according to the company, was designed to locate and remove Mac-specific spyware.
Downloading and installing takes moments and there’s really nothing to configure, though a full scan using MacScan will require a bit of time””about a half hour in my case. In terms of system resources, CPU usage ping ponged between 40 and 60 percent, and memory usage is fairly modest at about 170MB. Taken altogether, MacScan didn’t impact the other things I was doing at the time on my 2.1GHz MacBook with 2.5GB””browsing with Safari 4, Firefox 3, downloading with Transmission, Mail running and iTunes streaming WBUR, plus typing this little gem in Text Edit.
In the aforementioned full scan, MacScan detected a total of 4,286 cookies of which 105 were tracking cookies, a tool used for all sorts of things including online shopping carts to tracking, some people believe, every single thing you see and do.
In the eye of the beholder
MacScan located a number of tracking cookies from “clicktorrent.info,” which McAfree says aren’t nasty in their opinion. ID Security, on the other hand, thinks all tracking cookies are bad and should be destroyed. Go figure…
MacScan did not find any spyware per se (ie other than the aforementioned 105 tracking cookies). That is, spyware is generally thought to track, capture and report important personal information “” ie credit card numbers, your social security number, bank login information, etc “” without your knowledge or intervention to unknown persons for the purpose of stealing your identity and / or money. A keystroke logger for example.
So, do I just let these people willfully record my browsing habits? No, not entirely as I dump all of my cookies and clear my browser caches once a week and I’ve set Safari to only accept cookies from sites I’m actually browsing (Safari -> Preferences -> Security -> see image above). I think these are prudent and necessary steps to maintain good performance, as well as proper web hygiene.
Tip: If you click “Show Cookies” (image above) and then “Remove All,” you can purge yourself of that unwanted bloat associated with cookies, though you will also lose a record of links you’ve visited, saved shopping baskets, site logins and so on.
So, is MacScan a worthwhile addition to your Mac toolkit, a necessary weapon against prying eyes? I’m glad to have used the fully functional demo to check things out, but I’m going to put that 30 bucks aside for other perhaps more meaningful ways to stimulate the economy (like beer)…
What’s your take?