Four ways to Windows

The security question: Is Windows really unsafe?

At one point during my research for this article, I ran Parallels on my Mac Pro for the first time in a while. I wanted to tweak the virtual machine’s settings, which requires shutting it down. Before I could do so, Windows XP informed me it was installing a few updates. (I have the automatic update enabled.) Eventually, the updates were applied and the virtual machine shut down. I tweaked my Parallels settings and restarted the virtual machine. When XP finished booting up, I was surprised to see Windows’ built-in malware detector pop up on screen.

Somehow, my virtual Windows XP installation had been infected by a member of the rbot family of malicious software. Thankfully, Windows found and removed this hack all by itself.

I hadn’t done much more than surf the Net and run some Office applications on that particular machine. It’s certainly possible that I visited a malicious Web page. Or maybe someone had sniffed out my machine from the Net and attacked it remotely.

But I still have no clue how my Windows XP installation got infected. I’d turned Windows sharing off on my virtual machine, and my home network sits behind a router that uses network address translation to hide my machines’ IP addresses from the Net.

From now on, I’m going to need a good security program for my virtual Windows machines. (Friends have suggested AVG Free, for starters.) I’m not too worried about Windows infections getting to my OS X installation, at least not yet. But I’m glad I’m not a full-time Windows user.—ROB GRIFFITHS

[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Web site .]

Shop ▾
arrow up Amazon Shop buttons are programmatically attached to all reviews, regardless of products' final review scores. Our parent company, IDG, receives advertisement revenue for shopping activity generated by the links. Because the buttons are attached programmatically, they should not be interpreted as editorial endorsements.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter