The balance between speed and security

It is sad to think that there would be no need for Anti Virus, Anti Spam or Anti Malware services if the world wasn’t overflowing with the kind of filth that writes malicious applications.

A world free of these creeps is, I fear, a Disney fantasy.

In response to this threat most of us install Antivirus software like Sophos or Nortons and hope that they catch the latest bug before it infects our Mac and posts our credit card details on a billboard overlooking a freeway in China. But actually, in the real world, we could be doing more harm than good.

Lets start with the threat. A case in point is my Mac at the office. I am forever installing applications, downloading files and, in the course of testing people’s issues, sometimes visiting very dodgy looking sites. That all said it might surprise you to discover that I have no antivirus on my Mac at all (anymore), and for good reason.

Antivirus software slows down your Mac and antivirus software can actually break the builtin security of the MacOS and make it more vulnerable.

However, about three months ago, I started to think that my Mountain Lion powered iMac was running very slowly. I checked the disk, I cleaned the drive and I repaired the directory – no difference. Then Mavericks came along and after I installed that (afresh install) my Mac was flying high once again. I couldn’t believe how much better, cleaner and meaning my Mac seemed.

Then disaster.

My email ‘seemed’ like it was being hacked and so after eliminating everything else I entertained the possibility that my Mac had picked up a Mail Bot (a hidden application that uses your Mac as a Mail server to send out spam). So I downloaded the very latest (Maverick ready) antivirus and ran a scan for 24 hours.

And thats when the fun started and the lights came on. The installing of Sophos and the scan simultaneously revealed the following:

1. Despite the fact that my Mac hadn’t had anytivirus installed for the better part of six years I had no viruses. Not ONE. And while I wasn’t really expecting to find a Mac virus I was expecting to find at least a Windows virus, but not even that.

2. My Mac’s performance tanked. It was precisely the same speed as my 1996 Mac trying to run CAD software with 1MB of ram.

So I removed Sophos, rebooted and my Mac took off like a rocket.

By now I bet you are wondering, as I was a few years ago, what is the best thing to do?

Using my experience as a guide, and talking with other colleagues I think there three ways to do this.


Installed Sophos or equivalent and put up with the speed hit. I know this sounds odd considering everything I have just said and its not my recommended solution but at the end of the day if you feel vulnerable and unsure this is obviously the best way. Better to be safe than sorry.


Install Sophos, do a scan and then turn off Live protection. These means your Mac has been scanned and clean but then its up to you to manually scan everything you download from here. Obviously if you are getting your applications from secure places like the Mac Appstore then you can take it as a given that they will be safe. Everything else will need to be scanned.


Leave antivirus off your Mac and follow a few simple rules when browsing the web, reading emails and downloading software.

1. Always get software from a realizable source like Apple’s MacApp store or third party sites like Microsoft or Adobe.
2. Keeping point number 1 in mind, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER click on a link embedded in an email that links you to any website unless you are 10000% sure of the sender. It is a very common ploy to send emails to people saying something like Click here to download the latest…. Or Click here to access website…. If you are unsure always PHYSICALLY type the address into your web browser to access the site.
3. Microsoft will NEVER contact you to inform you that your computer has errors or a virus. In fact NO COMPUTER firm will ever contact you cold.

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    • Paul on December 9, 2013 at 3:59 PM
    • Reply

    I’ve had two calls in the past week claiming to be computer consultants advising that there has been a brwch of me security.

    I hung up on the first one.

    With the second one, I had some time on my hands and listened to the speel before informing them that that had the wrong number because if didn’t have a windows computer.

  1. Hey there,

    Think your history and article is good. I have written an article about the features in Sophos for Mac if it’s relavant?

    You can check it out here on my site:

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