Yesterday marked a sad day for my personal experiences in a Macintosh studio. The very last Mac (a G4 867mhz which I use as a print server), has had the very last copy of Norton Utilities/Antivirus removed from it. For the first time, Norton is no longer part of my studio set-up, for the first time I have NO antivirus or disk utility software in my studio, for the first time I am vulnerable.
Well technically, Norton Utilities hasn’t been on the network for a while, ever since 10.2. A series of crashes, slowdowns & general instability that I couldn’t pin down the cause of, finally persuaded me to not bother upgrading when I moved the studio to 10.3, and 10.4 finally finished it off. These Mac’s have been fine since. Coincidence? I think not.
But I still had to have anti-virus right? So i bought Norton Antivirus 9, and installed it onto the Mac’s in the studio, and for while everything was good. But again, after a series of instability episodes, plus some of the feedback that I have read on the web, I finally decided that I had had enough of Symantec’s products and upon upgrading the Mac’s to
Tiger, I am finally free, and vulnerable.
But how vulnerable am I exactly? In my experience, systems previous to Mac OS X, really did need Norton. A full install of Norton, and regular (weekly/monthly) rounds of running system checks & rebuilding desktops was required to keep each Mac running smoothly. And, let’s face it, systems previous to X crashed every few days or so.
But upon moving to X, it was like a breath of fresh air. I moved to X when 10.2 was released and initially I was concerned over it’s stability, and I felt I needed Norton as a cushion for this system, and as a cushion for my misguided views in comparing it to OS 9.
Over time though, the rock-solid reliability has astounded me. It wasn’t until I had to visit a print shop that was still using OS 9 in order to see through the repro of a print job, that
I saw what I used to have to put up with. Upon seeing Norton Systemworks popping up every once in a while, I remarked that this piece of software caused more problems than it solved. I was rebuked for this, with the printer saying, “but I need that software to keep things running smoothly!”
And he’s right, if you’re running OS 9 then I would agree (just) that you do need Norton, however once you move to X, leave it behind.
But, what about viruses? Well, as you know, (all together now), “THERE ARE NO VIRUSES FOR THE MACINTOSH PLATFORM”, but I am part of a Windows organisation, and I do receive the odd email with a Windows virus attached so I should run some sort of antivirus right?
Wrong. There are 2 potential threats here. The first is the passing on of a Windows viruses via email, and the second is the very slight chance that a Mac virus may appear at some point, taking advantage of some as yet unforeseen security vulnerability in Mac OS X.
The first is taken care of by education. I keep my Mac staff aware of the problem that they should not forward these types of email. They are very easy to spot anyway.
The second part of the problem would not be solved by Antivirus. A new virus would not be covered by Antivirus as it would not know about the new virus until it struck. Antivirus only makes sense when the OS you’re using is inundated by hundreds of viruses all of different types and you need constant protection to be safe, as per Windows.
This isn’t the case on the Mac. I think we’re much better off allowing Apple to plug the holes before they’re exploited, rather than running Antivirus that sucks at your systems processor cycles. When a virus does strike (and it’s bound to sooner or later), then we’re partially protected because it would need permission to run, and if it could run without permission, it would only affect things in your home directory, as I don’t have root enabled on any Mac, (and you shouldn’t either), and I have extremely good, daily backup (as you should have as well).
It is a sad day, but only for Symantec. I can understand why the shift in focus away from the Mac makes sense, they just look at the numbers. The grass is much greener on the Windows side, and always will be, even with Longhorn’s apparent improvements. But it’s a happy day for my studio, because the Mac no longer needs Norton.