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Correction to This Article
Help File: Whether to be wary of the latest spyware lurking on Macs

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, June 6, 2010; G04

Q: I saw there's some new Mac spyware circulating. What's the answer to protect your Mac?

A: The spyware in question, a sneaky application installed in the background by some screensavers and other "free" Mac programs, is not particularly hazardous by Windows standards.

That's mainly because it cannot do anything unless the would-be victim complies with its request to type in an administrator password -- something a Mac user with any experience ought to recognize as sketchy behavior by a Mac program.

The usual suggestion in this situation is "buy an anti-virus program," but with so few kinds of Mac malware in circulation, that's a debatable expense. (Note that Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard includes basic malware screening, and you can install the free, open-source ClamXav -- http://clamxav.com -- if you're nervous.)

Instead, remember the same security advice that you should follow on any computer: Be skeptical in your choice of extra programs. Only install new applications that trusted sources have already recommended. If you're not sure it's safe to add one, don't.

Let me put it this way: I've heard far too many people say they regret trying the wrong program, but I don't remember anybody telling me "I wish I could spend more time trying new software -- computing's too boring."

A spammer is using my e-mail address as the return address for his spam -- I know because all of a sudden I'll get 20 to 30 "undeliverable mail" messages. Should I get a new address?

Anybody can use anybody else's e-mail address when sending a message, so there's not much you can do except wait out the situation. Eventually, we can hope, the spammer will find somebody else to impersonate.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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