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Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Mavericks Edition by David Pogue

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Six OS X Security Shields

OS X has a spectacular reputation for stability and security. At this writing, there still hasn’t been a single widespread OS X virus—a spectacular feature that makes Windows look like a waste of time. There’s also no Windows-esque plague of spyware (downloaded programs that do something sneaky behind your back).

Part of the reason is that OS X was designed with security in mind from the very beginning. Listed below are a few of the many drafty corners of a typical operating system that Apple has solidly plugged:

  • OS X has always come from the factory with all its ports shut and locked.

    Ports are channels that remote computers use to connect to services on your computer: one for instant messaging, one for Windows’ remote-control feature, and so on. It’s fine to have them open if you’re expecting visitors. But if you’ve got an open port that exposes the soft underbelly of your computer without your knowledge, you’re in for a world of hurt. Open ports are precisely what permitted viruses like Blaster to infiltrate millions of PCs in the Windows XP days.

  • In OS X, no program (like a virus) can install itself without your awareness. You’re notified at every juncture when anything is trying to install itself on your Mac. In fact, every time you try to download something, either in Safari or Mail, that contains executable code (a program, in other words), a dialog box warns you that it could conceivably harbor a virus—even if your download is compressed as a .zip file ...

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