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protect your mac from malware, viruses and other threats

Nessus Vulnerability Software

If you’re new to Mac, you’re probably thinking that it’s a no-brainer that you need some kind of anti-virus app. Once you start looking around the web for reviews, it’s inevitable that you’re going to come across the Great Mac AntiVirus Debate: in the one corner, those who say Mac users who forego antivirus protection are arrogant and just setting themselves up for a fall, and in the other those who’ve used Macs for umpteen years, never had or heard of any real threat, and consequently say AV software is a waste of time.

You can read round this debate for years and never come to a satisfying conclusion, largely because its as much about what you ‘ought’ to do as it is about what is the case. Just because you’ve never had any viruses, doesn’t mean you won’t get one tomorrow. And yet, there are NO viruses in the wild known to affect macs, and so when one does arrive, it will be unknown to your AV scanner. Hence, an AV Scanner is just a waste of system resources (and possibly money, if you paid for it). Yikes! What do I do!!

What you do is sidestep the whole debate and stop thinking only about virus scanners, which after all deal with only a small subset of all the possible attack vectors in the internet age, and start thinking in terms of vulnerability scanners. Unlike a simple virus scanner, a vulnerability scanner examines your system not only for malware but also for any vulnerabilities in commercial software, plug ins, your system setup (including network and other sharing settings) and other installed items. The scanner will not only explain the threat and its severity but also tell you what, if anything, you need to do, recommend patches and guide you to links for more info where available.

You can use something like Nessus for free if you are a home user, which will give you a far better insight into the possible attacks someone could implement on your system (and it will check your system against almost all of the major virus scanner databases like Symantec, etc).

Even better, a vulnerability scanner like Nessus won’t just examine your machine, it’ll look at everything else (and all the installed apps) of anything on your home network including phones (any platform), other computer systems (any OS), and even your router.

FastTasks – a utility for ten common terminal tasks


Update: I’ve since written a nice GUI version in AppleScript-ObjectiveC which you can download for free here»

If you find you only ever go into Terminal to perform a small number of tasks that can’t be done (easily or at all) in the OS X graphical user interface, this little utility could be for you. It allows you to run a number of common tasks such as

reveal and hide hidden folders
batch change the extension on multiple files
purge system free memory
flush the DNS cache
restore system preferences to defaults

without having to bother looking up the commands. You will, however, have to do a little Terminal ‘dirty work’ to initially get the utility up and running (it’s a shell script which you need to turn into an executable file), but step by step instructions are all provided. 😉

Here’s what you do:

1. Copy or download the entire script from here FastTasks code and paste it into a text editor (TextEdit or Tincta, my favourite, will do).

2. Save the file as plain text onto your desktop with the name ‘FastTasks’

3. Open and paste this command:

sudo chmod 755 ~/Desktop/FastTasks

and press ‘return’ on your keyboard. You’ll be asked for you Admin password which will be invisible when you type it. If you’re wondering what you’ve just done, you’ve just changed that plain text file into an executable program.

4. Paste the next line into

cp ~/Desktop/FastTasks /etc/bin/FastTasks

then press ‘return’ on your keyboard.

As a result of that last command, you can now use the script by typing ‘FastTasks’ in a Terminal window or by double-clicking ‘FastTasks’ in Finder or on the Desktop.

5. By the way, if the Terminal window remains open after FastTasks has completed, change the following settings in Terminal’s Preferences:

Preferences > Settings > Shell > When the shell exits…

and change the dropdown menu from ‘Don’t close the window’ to ‘Close if the shell exited cleanly’.

And that’s it. You can now run any of the tasks in the menu without having to know the commands! 🙂

Fast tips for using FastTasks

1. FastTasks is actually quickest to run by using Spotlight and Terminal.
If you have the Spotlight hotkey set up (usually cmd-space by default), simply open Spotlight, and type ‘Term’ and hit ‘return’ on the keyboard. At the Terminal prompt type ‘fasttasks’ and hit ‘return’.

2. Running it this way has another benefit. If you want to run FastTasks again after performing one task, just hit the ‘up’ arrow on the keyboard (hitting the ‘up’ arrow repeatedly will take you through previous commands entered at the Terminal prompt. Use the ‘down’ arrow to go forward), then ‘return’ when you see ‘fasttasks’ on the command line.

change the default app for a file type

OS X is known for its intuitive and simple way to achieve common user tasks, but one area where it fails is in setting or changing the default app to open a given file type. New OS X users migrating from Windows may find it especially frustrating given the ease with which this can be done in Windows 7 and so on. How, for example, do you make all your video files open with Quicktime instead of VLC by default or pdf files to open with Acrobat instead of Preview?

Here’s the answer:

1. In the Finder, select any file of the given type you want to change.

2. Using the keyboard, press Cmd-i or right-click on the file to display the contextual menu, and chose ‘Get Info’.

3. About 2/3rd of the way down the tall dialogue box, you should see ‘Open with…’ and a menu button. Click on the menu and choose the app you want.

4. After clicking on your preferred app, click the ‘Change All…’ button. This means that not only this file, but all files with the same extension will open with the app you just chose.

5. Press Cmd-w on the keyboard or click the red ‘Close’ button in the top-left corner to close the dialogue box.

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