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Avast Free Antivirus for Mac


I'm probably a bit more worried about malware than most Mac owners. I know that Apple is slow to fix their security problems (idiots!), so I take extra precautions. For example, my user account is not an administrator; that is mildly annoying at times, but I hope worth that annoyance for the extra security layer it should provide. I have installed TR-08 to monitor additions to LaunchAgents, LaunchDaemons and StartupItems, which at least lets me know when something inserts anything in those locations. I run Chrome, which has warned me off dodgy websites once or twice. I keep up with Apple updates, of course.

I have tried a few Mac antivirus programs. Before I switched to a non-administrative user account, I was even reasonably happy with Sophos free anti-virus for Mac. It wasn't active protection; detection would be after the crooks were already in the house, but that's better than never knowing they were there at all.

However, if you use a non-admin account as I do now, Sophos becomes more annoying because it doesn't ask for privilege escalation, which means I'd have to log in to an administrative account to have it scan more than my own files. After a few months of not bothering to do that, I uninstalled Sophos.

I recently read reviews of Avast! Free Antivirus for Mac and of course noticed that it offers a "web shield" that would seem to offer some additional real time protection. User reviews seemed to be enthusiastic, so I tried it.

Given the reviews I had read, I was a bit surprised that I noticed a "molasses effect" immediately. I'm running a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 iMac with 12GB of RAM but the slowdown was instantly noticeable - I wouldn't dare install this on my wife's older Mac Mini. Of course, I am one of those people who has thirty or more tabs open all the time; Avast might not have been such a drag were I less active on the web. Still, it wasn't so bad that I couldn't use it, so I let it run.

But then strange things started happening. I'd click on a taskbar icon or even a window and it wouldn't open. I started experiencing startup hangs, which caused me to do multiple disk and file system verifications and long, long runs of Memtest, none of which ever found anything wrong. I triple checked all the launchdaemons and startup items and combed through Preferences looking for old junk that might somehow be interfering, but found nothing.

Whatever was going on, it was getting worse. The startup hangs became more frequent and so did the partial freezes. I was becoming very annoyed.

A few days ago I experienced a full, nothing to do but power off system hang. An excruciatingly long startup followed and I decided I probably should reinstall Lion. That's not at all difficult, and I have plenty of Time Machine backup sets to restore from, but I decided to try one last thing before going that far: I uninstalled Avast.

And that was the end of all my problems. No more startup hangs, no more non-responsive clicks and no more slogging through molasses while browsing. Removing Avast cured all of that instantly.

Oh, well. Once again I am running a somewhat naked Mac. Avast never found anything except for the remnants of Microsoft Security Essentials signatures when I'd shut down Parallels, but I do worry about this a little. Apple doesn't seem to be taking security seriously enough and sooner or later that's going to bite them hard. I hope that I'm not one who is bitten with them.

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© Anthony Lawrence

Tue May 29 13:43:45 2012: 11028   DavidGillam


From what I've seen, most commercial AV software for Mac have similar issues to Sophos. It appears the makers of these tools did as simple a port from the Windows code as possible, which is sloppy, in my opinion. To charge money for such sloppiness is plain cheeky.

I've been happy with ClamXav. It's unobtrusive, gets the job done, and has a component for automatically scanning files when they are downloaded or installed. This piece is called "ClamXav Sentry".

Of course, I also follow safe Mac operational practices like running as a non-privileged user, never blindly clicking on links--first let the mouse-over reveal the true destination--employing anti-popup and other browser security feature, and so on. I am diligent in avoiding various forms of "bloatware," or "whiz-bang gotta have it now" utilities. Most of these only put load on the system, in my experience.

One more very useful tool I use is LastPass, for securely managing website logins. This allows me to make--or have LastPass make for me--very secure passwords for website logins without my need to remember them.



Tue May 29 13:48:25 2012: 11029   TonyLawrence


Because I never know where I might be, I remember all my passwords.. I "cheat", though: (link)

Thu May 31 00:27:40 2012: 11040   NickBarron


It would be nice if Apple plugged a few security gaps a little bit quicker...

We are not talking about many in the first place. But they are hardly Usain Bolt of the line.

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