by Chris Place, ACMT

So you’ve got malware, and I bet you’ve got questions.  By far, the most common of our malware-related questions is “How did I get infected with malware? Was it a website I went to?”  The answer is No.  It’s more complicated than just visiting a website.  The truth is, you’ve been tricked into installing  it yourself.  Unlike Windows machines, which can become infected without you ever knowing, the security of OS X makes these sort of ‘automatic infections’ near impossible.  Instead, sneaky individuals develop ways of tricking you into agreeing to install their malicious software.

So, perhaps you find a new program on the internet that you want to install on your computer, and before you know it you’ve got it downloaded and installing.  During installation you may find yourself clicking the ‘next’ button at the speed of light, flying through pages of “end user license agreements” and other such nonsense until you get to the part where the program actually installs.  In a perfect world, we’d all read those screens carefully, fully understanding what we’re getting in to.  But it’s not a perfect world, and no one has time for that.  This is one way that those sneaky malware developers get you.  They’re banking on you clicking through those installations without reading.

You see, nestled somewhere in that stuff we want to rush through is a simple checkbox that was already checked.  It says something like “Do you also want to install “SuperSearchProtectPro”?  And we simply clicked ‘next,’ which gives our implicit permission to install this unknown software.  Suddenly, Safari is loaded with advertisements, pop-up windows stalk our every move, and our home page keeps changing itself to some site we’ve never seen before.  “How,” we ask, “did this SuperSearchProtectPro junk get on my computer?”

The solution?  Be cautious and careful when you’re installing software from somewhere other than the App Store.  You might not have the hours to read through all the legalese, but it’s vital that you keep a very close eye out for ‘offers’ to install other software.  Be vigilant, unclick those checkboxes, and keep yourself safe!