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McAfee Gives Enterprise Macs a Bodyguard

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 2, 2009 4:00 AM PT

If you believe those ads from Apple, malware should be the farthest thing from the mind of a Mac owner. Chances are, though, you're not going to find a lot of believers among IT professionals. That's why a major malware fighter like McAfee has released a new security product to protect Macs in corporate networks from black hat attacks.

McAfee Gives Enterprise Macs a Bodyguard

The product, McAfee Endpoint Protection for the Mac, is designed for a corporate environment that may have anywhere from a few Macs to thousands of them. Pricing varies based on the number of network nodes protected and level of service. For instance, for a network of 500 to 1,000 Macs, pricing would be US$55.08 per node with "Gold" support.

What's driving the market for protecting Macs in the enterprise is compliance, according to McAfee Group Product Marketing Manager Ed Metcalf. "Many companies have to comply with security policies internally, or with mandated security regulations like PCI payment card regulations or HIPPA healthcare or financial data regulations around data security," he told MacNewsWorld.

"Those security regulations say that you've got to protect your endpoints and deploy antivirus or other security measures at your endpoints regardless of what operating systems you have," he continued.

Success Attracts Broadband Bandits

Despite insinuations in Apple's advertising, malware aimed at Macs exists and it's growing. "It's no coincidence that security attacks on Macs have increased at roughly their growth in market share," Metcalf asserted.

"While cybercriminals are certainly targeting the platform with the most opportunity," he added, "as the Mac platform does grow, and Macs gain market share, we will be seeing more and more cybercriminals targeting that platform."

Admittedly, the sheer number of viruses aimed at Windows dwarfs those for Macs. The number of Windows viruses out there is somewhere in the "hundreds of thousands, if not millions," according to Chet Wisniewski, a security adviser in the Burlington, Mass., offices of security software firm Sophos. There's probably "less than 1,000" for the Mac, he said. Nevertheless, he told MacNewsWorld: "There are some real threats out there. Mac users shouldn't get too complacent."

Complacency will be a magnet for information highwaymen when they begin targeting Macs for mischief, Metcalf maintained. "Many people believe their Macs are impervious to security threats," he said. "We believe cybercriminals will target those users because they don't have any security."

Unified Control of Defenses

Mac Endpoint is designed to work with the same console used by McAfee's Windows security products.

McAfee Endpoint Protection for the Mac
McAfee Endpoint Protection for the Mac
(click image to enlarge)

The company claims that will reduce the management costs of the system by making it easier to manage all endpoints in a network with fewer resources. It will also allow network administrators to more quickly respond to security incidents, let them integrate Macs into the system faster and more seamlessly, and permit simultaneous updating of security settings for both Mac and Windows endpoints on the network.

Other features in Mac Endpoint include:

  • antivirus protection against viruses, worms, Trojans and other malware, as well as selective scanning functions to improve system performance;
  • antispyware that blocks the installation of unwanted programs:
  • application protection that gives a network operator control over what applications may run on a Mac endpoint and thwart malicious applications from modifying legitimate programs on the machine;
  • a system firewall that repels inbound network attacks on a Mac, including probes sniffing for vulnerabilities, and an outbound barrier that prevents data stealing programs from sending their ill-gotten gains outside the network.

Cool Allures Execs

Beefing up protection of Macs in the enterprise is particularly important because in many organizations, Mac adoption is occurring from the top down, according to Neil MacDonald, a vice president at Gartner in Stamford, Conn. "What you're seeing is the iPod halo effect," he told MacNewsWorld. "Macintosh systems are cool. They're well-engineered. They're sleek. They're stylish. And they tend to be viewed as a status symbol."

"So you're starting to see Macintoshes being brought in at the higher levels in the organization, where the IT department can't block them," he explained.

When you have C-level executives connecting their Macs to enterprise assets, he added, "you have to have protection on those devices, because sensitive information is going to be on them," he said.

"These machines are vulnerable,"he added. "Apple's commercials are effective and they're funny, but they're dangerously misleading."

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