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It’s been a while since a virus or other problem has directly affected Mac users. Even so, it’s crucial to remain vigilant. For one thing, our luck could change, and you’ll want to be ready. Also, if you send documents to and from PCs, it’s important to be able to detect and repair infected files so that you don’t pass them on to others.
A good tool for finding and eradicating viruses is Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 10.0.1 for Macintosh . Symantec’s latest update is impressive, adding important elements such as full compatibility with Tiger and a new Quarantine feature that prevents infected files from affecting your computer.
To repair, or not to repair
Once NAV finds infected files, it’s very good at presenting clear information about which files are infected, where they are stored, and what virus they contain. A Learn More button retrieves information about the nature of the virus—a good way to satisfy curious minds. No matter how good Symantec’s virus definitions are, though, there are times when NAV considers perfectly good files to be infected or corrupted. Because of that, I prefer to check over the list of files that NAV flags as infected before letting the program try to repair them. A Manually repair infected files option lets you do that.
The new Quarantine feature stashes files that NAV thinks are infected in a hidden location, so you can’t inadvertently open them; they remain there until they’ve been repaired or deemed clean. This nice safety feature keeps unwitting Windows users from accessing infected files on your Mac when file sharing is turned on.
For Tiger users, the latest version of NAV includes a new Global Threat Assessment Dashboard widget, which displays the two most critical and three most recent threats that Symantec’s aware of. It will rarely show anything relevant to the average Mac user—most are viruses, Trojan horses, and other malware affecting the millions of inadequately protected Windows users out there. However, if you own or support Windows machines, you should find the information useful. A small info button (marked with the tiny “i” familiar to Dashboard users) brings up details about which version of NAV you’re running, the date of your last virus-definitions update, and whether or not Auto-Protect is enabled.
Another improvement from NAV 9: No longer does the LiveUpdate window float in front of all your other documents while the application retrieves software patches and virus-definition updates. Also, you can now quickly scan a folder using the Finder’s contextual menus. And in a nice touch, NAV now lets you set which types of newly mounted volumes its Auto-Protect scanning feature will disregard—for instance, read-only video DVDs, iPods, and other media unlikely to contain infected files. This is a great idea, but I’d like a little more flexibility, such as the ability to tell NAV not to bother scanning my digital camera’s memory card each time I mount it.
Macworld’s buying advice
Norton AntiVirus 10.0.1 is a substantial upgrade over previous versions. If you’re a Tiger user who’s already running NAV—or you work in a mixed-platform environment—making the switch is a no-brainer. If you aren’t running any antivirus software, you should consider picking up a copy of NAV 10. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind you get from knowing your Mac is well-protected.
[ Mark H. Anbinder is an IT specialist at Cornell University and a contributing editor to TidBITS.]Norton AntiVirus’ new Dashboard widget serves as early warning for the most imminent threats. Luckily, most of them only affect Windows users.Tired of waiting for the program to scan your “Battlestar Galactica” DVD? Tell it which types of removable media to scan.