If this isn’t a virus, then what is it?

Mac Format - - APPLE TALK -

I have been a reader of MacFor­mat for many years. Iron­i­cally, I have just had a re­quest for re­newal which I have not been able to ful­fil due to a pop-up mes­sage. I’ve al­ways un­der­stood that Macs don’t have viruses, and I’ve seen no ar­ti­cles sug­gest­ing what to do if you ac­tu­ally get one. My MacBook Pro run­ning Yosemite now seems rid­dled with prob­lems: I see many pop-ups, to the point that it’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to or­der online due to ads pro­mot­ing soft­ware (sup­pos­edly for OS X) to clean the com­puter. Ev­ery so of­ten I’m told to up­grade Flash (I haven’t). Do you rec­om­mend any soft­ware to help with any of these prob­lems? David Hurn No. Down­load­ing util­i­ties to clean your Mac is ac­tu­ally a com­mon way to ac­quire this stuff in the first place. It’s called ad­ware, and it’s an ex­am­ple of a Po­ten­tially Un­wanted Pro­gram (PUP). It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that these aren’t viruses or worms, be­cause they aren’t sel­f­repli­cat­ing. To in­stall them you will have had to click a down­load link on a web page and then click OK on the dialog that pops up to warn that you’re in­stalling soft­ware from the web. Fig­ur­ing out what is safe and what isn’t on the web is a bit like fig­ur­ing out which are the safe streets to walk down late at night in a big city. It’s a hard thing to teach and a lot of it comes down to hav­ing a ‘spidey sense’ for things that look sus­pect.

My dad, for ex­am­ple, is ter­ri­ble at this and will be wildly para­noid about things that are quite safe, yet blithely end up down­load­ing all sorts of stuff that takes me ages to get rid of. If your web fu isn’t pow­er­ful enough to keep you out of trou­ble, the safest thing is to only down­load apps from the Mac App Store. Back this up by en­sur­ing ‘Al­low apps down­loaded from‘ in Se­cu­rity & Pri­vacy pref­er­ences is not set to Any­where.

Get­ting rid of the ad­ware is just a ques­tion of drag­ging the ap­pro­pri­ate fold­ers into the Trash and re­set­ting the search en­gine and Home­page set­tings in Sa­fari’s pref­er­ences. There’s a good list of fold­ers that com­mon ad­ware uses at http://ap­ple.co/1TzQD4V.

Get all your apps from the Mac App Store till you get the hang of the wilder parts of the in­ter­net.

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