We’re pleased to welcome as our latest TidBITS sponsor Intego, makers of a number of security and protection programs for Mac OS X, most notably VirusBarrier X6. Unlike most other companies selling security software, Intego has focused almost entirely on the Macintosh, expanding only to offer VirusBarrier for iOS to ensure that your iOS device doesn’t act as a vector for bringing infected files into your network, along with “dual protection” versions of its programs for Mac users who run Windows in virtualization. This level of focus ensures, for instance, that Intego not only supports Mac OS 10.7 Lion, but also 10.6 Snow Leopard and 10.5 Leopard.
While it’s easy to assume that VirusBarrier X6 is just an antivirus program, the program actually goes far beyond scanning for malware. It also provides a configurable port-based firewall, the capability to detect spyware activity and prevent software from “phoning home,” network traffic monitoring tools, network attack detection, anti-phishing protection, cookie filtering, and more. I was particularly intrigued to see that VirusBarrier X6’s Data Vault feature can watch for and stop outgoing Internet packets that contain user-specified bits of data — your credit card or Social Security number, for instance — preventing that data from being stolen and you from sending it accidentally (you can override the protection as necessary). And VirusBarrier X6’s traffic monitoring tools can report on your Mac’s incoming and outgoing bandwidth use, which could be useful for anyone dealing with a bandwidth cap.
Although Intego’s Washing Machine program is highly focused (it cleans up cookies, caches, and history files from your Internet browsing), their Internet Security Barrier X6 suite also offers a wide range of security tools. Along with VirusBarrier X6 itself, Internet Security Barrier X6 includes the content-filtering program Content Barrier for enabling parental controls, the backup program Personal Backup, the spam-filtering utility Personal Antispam, and FileGuard for encrypting files. Both VirusBarrier X6 and the full Internet Security Barrier X6 suite use Intego’s NetUpdate utility to ensure that all code and virus definitions are always up to date.
I’ve resisted — and recommended against — running antivirus software on Macs for many years, based on the minimal amount of malware targeting the Mac and the level to which constant scanning can slow Macs down. But the recent MacDefender ruckus worried me, I’ll admit, because I hadn’t anticipated the level to which less-experienced Mac users could so easily be fooled by cleverly written malware (see “Apple Responds to Increasingly Serious MacDefender Situation,” 25 May 2011).
I still believe that constant scanning for viruses is overkill for sophisticated Mac users — including most TidBITS readers — but for our friends, relatives, and colleagues who neither know nor care how things work behind the scenes, it would be worth talking with them about adding something like VirusBarrier X6 to their Macs. And, for the rest of us, VirusBarrier X6’s wide selection of security and privacy tools are welcome. I’m more concerned about Internet attacks and data theft than I am about actual viruses, for instance, and I appreciate the light that VirusBarrier X6’s monitoring tools shed on that sort of skullduggery.
Thanks to Intego for their support of TidBITS and the Mac community!