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Sophos free anti-virus for Mac

I meant to look at Symantec Mac A/V back when they announced it last year, but I got busy..

It was the recent Mac Defender malware that reminded me. That, and an email message from a friend who had infected their Facebook. My wife clicked on the link - oops!.

She suffered no harm -it just crashed, because it was a Windows exploit and we don't run no stinkin' Windows here..

Still, the Mac stuff is obviously on its way and it can only become more sophisticated over time. Yes, 99.99% of it will be unimportant unless you foolishly use your admin password, but any of us can be fooled. If nothing else will trip you up, some site you absolutely trust (CPAN, Ubuntu, whatever) might get exploited and a download COULD get you. Unlikely, sure, but..

So I downloaded the Sophos. It is free, right?


Is it really? Well, I didn't have to give them a credit card, but their Try Sophos for free page makes me think this won't be free forever.

My guess is that it will stay free until Symantec sees enough usage - and enough threats found - that they think Mac users will be willing to pay to keep the product working.

System load

My expectation was that virus scanning would bog my system down. I was especially concerned about that on my older 32 bit MacBook Pro. However, even while running a full disk scan, the CPU usage was not bothersome:

Sophos system load

As you can see, the load was low; usually under 6%. Without the disk scan (only running in background as an interceptor), cpu usage dropped to 0.5% or less.


It found malware. Not just on my wife's machine, but also on mine.

That surprised me, honestly. I expected that my wife would have it - she knew she shouldn't have clicked on that link and had done so rather accidentally; she just zee'd out for a moment. But she had several more and although she did have more than I did, I was surprised that I had any!

Surprised both because I am more careful and also because I have scanned this machine with other products in the past. That might mean that this kind of malwalware is becoming both sneakier and more common.

These were trojans, not viruses, and they were all Windows Java exploits, ineffective on Mac, so they never got to ask for privilege escalation.

2011-05-22 06:36:33 -0400 Threat: 'Troj/ByteVer-G' detected in /Users/apl/Library

That's a Windows trojan, apparently related to this Microsoft threat warning.

Will that sort of unimportant result cause Mac owners not to care? This post in an Apple discussion group might be typical. A person noticed Sophos identifying Troj/ByteVer-G in their Java cache folder and asked what they should do. The answer:

It could have come from some random web site and/or ad.
It could simply be an error on the part of Sophos.

The easiest way to get rid of the problem is get rid of Sophos.

If that represents common thinking, Sophos may have a long wait before they make any money from Mac owners.

Given the small investment in CPU time and that it cost me no cash, I'm willing to leave this running. I'll update this post if and when it catches something real.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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© Anthony Lawrence

Mon May 23 17:15:42 2011: 9502   TonyLawrence


By the way, there is an incredible performance difference between my old MacBook Pro and my wife's newer Mini. They both had approximately the same number of files - some 4 million plus - but the Min finished scanning those in less than a day. Well into the second day, the Mac Book sill has 750,000 or so to go!

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