by Stephanie Buck

Now that Apple has introduced an all-new lineup of impressive machines, its market share will no doubt continue to expand. That’s good news for Apple, bad news for the security of our devices. The more users make the switch to Apple products, the more we can expect criminal malware to follow.

We’ve gathered up a few simple tips and updates to be aware of when protecting your Mac from its now-uncertain security. In short, pay attention to operating system updates, improved app features and antivirus protection.

But also, be aware that a combination of all three cannot necessarily protect you from the latest viruses. You’ll have to be diligent about your own safe clicking habits and stay up to date on the latest security news, too.

That said, here are three security improvements that will help protect your Mac in the future.

1. The Next Version of Mac OS X

Apple knows that it must protect the influx of users it’s bringing on. The next version of OS X will surely help protect susceptible computers better and more efficiently. Since its beefed-up OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple has been making security a top priority. Now, OX S 10.8 Mountain Lion contains a sturdy security feature called Gatekeeper, which helps prevent users from downloading malicious software.

To do: Keep your OS up to date.

2. Sandboxing

Preventing exploits is not just about the operating system. Apple is also taking steps to bolster Safari by sandboxing parts of the browser to prevent applications from accessing unnecessary data on your computer.

Apple is also taking a lesson from iOS, which has never experienced a widespread malware attack. Going forward, Apple is requiring all App Store applications to be sandboxed and certified. However, applications existing before June 2012 are not necessarily sandboxed and secure.

Apple is setting a rigorous standard, which makes for greater security, but also has some users wondering whether the heavier hand will negatively affect developer flexibility.

To do: Stick with Mac apps that have been approved by Apple so as to avoid security holes.

3. Antivirus Software

Just hearing the phrase makes us want to take a big old nap. But the software continues to be a viable option for casual and sophisticated users alike.

VirusBarrier X6 is a great antivirus software made specifically for Mac, and costs $49.95 for one year and two devices worth of protection.

Norton Antivirus 12 for Mac provides one-year protection for $49.99. And the latest version of McAfee Internet Security software protects one Mac for one year at a cost of $79.99.

It’s worth noting that some Mac antivirus software costs significantly more money than PC versions. For instance, Norton Antivirus retails at $39.99 for one PC over one year, as does McAfee Internet Security.

To do: Find the Mac anitvirus program that works for your budget and system setup.

Freelance technology writer Glenn Fleishman contributes regularly to the Economist, Macworld, and TidBITS. He is still on the fence about what he recommends to Mac users in terms of security measures. The aforementioned antivirus software, for example, mainly protects against already known malware; it won’t be able to catch new exploits, like the widespread Flashback virus that ran malicious JavaScript on sites around the web.

“With the Java exploit that hit hundreds of thousands of Mac users, it didn’t matter whether or not you had some kind of protective software installed. None of it detected the Java bug or blocked it,” says Fleishman.

But he still thinks that more casual users (whether Mac or PC) could benefit from an antivirus program. Even if they never update their systems, the software can protect against threats already out there.

And even sophisticated users who are conscious of their clicks and cookies might find antivirus protection worthwhile. “I had McAfee’s suite installed on my MacBook Air for several months after writing a review for Macworld, and it was interesting to see which programs launched and which software wanted Internet access,” he says. “But it never caught anything malicious.”

So, the rest is up to you. What measures do you take to ensure you and your computer are protected?



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