ITS Advice: Protect your Macbook from infection

A curious episode happened during the ITS Wi-Fi sessions this year. We had a micro-demic of Macs coming in with malware! You can imagine my horror and bewilderment as I opened the activity manager to find an application by the name of spsecure diligently denying all access to the internet! “It cannot be!”  I yelled to my compadrés sitting around me as I examined patient number zero. Confusion and panic spread among us, a MacBook with malware, c’est impossible!

Despite the shock, we discovered the files and were able to remove them from the system. After the first one, we started to have more cases of the virus coming in. People innocently thought that they were having Wi-Fi problems but were, in fact, infected from malware. We managed to clean all the systems, and everyone left happy and virus-free.

That’s all fine and dandy, but the big question is: how did those students get infected with malware? As it turns out, ITS distributed a link for the Microsoft Office installation that looked something like this: What those students didn’t realize is that is case sensitive so took them to the wrong page, *facepalm*.  Unfortunately, this url was a direct link to someone’s Dropbox hosting a malicious file. The students downloaded this file, thinking they were installing office, but managed to install malware instead.

This is a great example of how to avoid infecting your computer with malware (Windows and Mac). I guess the canonical rule would be never to trust anything you download, no matter how reliable you think the source is. You never know when the source has been compromised. Everyone has gotten those emails from a virus-infected friend telling you to check out awesome pictures at some sketchy link. The second rule would be to not unnecessarily download software. Trying to watch the latest episode of your show on a shady website, but it requires you to download this thing first? I wouldn’t do it.

In general the less download-happy you are, the cleaner your system will be. If you need some software for a specific purpose, Google around for some reviews before you do. If it hasn’t gotten some reviews on sites like CNET or on some blogs, then you probably shouldn’t be downloading it.

If all else fails, you know where to find us”¦

“¦ Winn 103 (ITS Service Center) “¦ in case you don’t”¦

Ralph Minderhoud is the student ITS Supervisor at Trinity.