Mac Security & Tax Software

  • Posted: 15 January 2010 02:05 PM

    I’ve had my iMac for about 6 months.  I just purchased the software to do my taxes.  I’ve always heard that macs were safer than PC’s, but lately there seemed to be some warnings in the forums that those days of completely safe iMacs might soon be a thing of the past.  My immediate question is:  Do I need to take any security steps with my relatively new iMac before I load and use my tax software thie year?

         
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    Posted: 16 January 2010 12:42 PM #1

    Those “warnings” crop up every once in a while, usually after somebody posts about some “proof of concept” trojan that is reported on the web. In reality, the probability of you becoming infected with such a trojan is infinitesimal if you practice “safe hex” (as one of our members if fond of saying), i.e. you do not download software from untrusted sources.

    Security on the Mac is an oft hotly debated topic. The current threat level is very low. However, it is not absolute zero. If it will give you peace of mind, purchase antivirus software. If nothing else, it will help you to protect your Windows-using friends. I currently run AV on my computer because it is a requirement from my employer. It has never found anything Mac related. It has stopped several Windows viruses that came in documents and such provided by Windows users.

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  • Posted: 16 January 2010 07:25 PM #2

    Mac55 - 15 January 2010 06:05 PM

    I’ve had my iMac for about 6 months.  I just purchased the software to do my taxes.  I’ve always heard that macs were safer than PC’s, but lately there seemed to be some warnings in the forums that those days of completely safe iMacs might soon be a thing of the past.  My immediate question is:  Do I need to take any security steps with my relatively new iMac before I load and use my tax software thie year?

    Let common sense prevail. Phishing scams may be your biggest threat and those threats require active user participation. What “warnings” have you read about and how do they relate to the use of your tax software?

         
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    Posted: 17 January 2010 11:35 AM #3

    Mac55 - 15 January 2010 06:05 PM

    I’ve had my iMac for about 6 months.  I just purchased the software to do my taxes.  I’ve always heard that macs were safer than PC’s, but lately there seemed to be some warnings in the forums that those days of completely safe iMacs might soon be a thing of the past.  My immediate question is:  Do I need to take any security steps with my relatively new iMac before I load and use my tax software thie year?

    I am sure there are lots of opinions on this topic, so I will share with you my own take on this issue:

    1) Set up a solid login password for your mac (this will also enhance the security for your keychain)
    2) Disable automatic login (http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=Mac/10.6/en/8313.html)
    3) Ensure you have a firewall enabled (router and/or OS; I have both enabled) (http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=Mac/10.6/en/8154.html)
    4) Verify junk mail filtering in Apple Mail (Avoid phishing emails) (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2500)
    5) Ensure that Safari Preferences has fraudulent web site detection enabled (default) to avoid accessing possibly fraudulent web sites
    6) In Safari, disable preference to automatically open downloaded files
    7) Consider setting up firmware password protection in Mac OS X (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1352); should your mac get stolen, this adds another layer of protection
    8) Consider creating an encrypted disk image to store those items that you do not want easily accessible (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1578). Your mac will request if you like these drive passwords automatically stored in your keychain, too.

    As a sidenote, this year’s TurboTax software gives the user the preference to save their tax information as an encrypted file; this is offered within the software’s saving preferences. I have used TT every year since 2004, and I consider it to be the most mac-friendly tax preparation software in town.

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    Posted: 17 January 2010 12:00 PM #4

    Intruder - 16 January 2010 04:42 PM

    If it will give you peace of mind, purchase antivirus software.

    I believe that most, if not all, on this forum, will agree with Intruder’s comments. I personally don’t run antivirus sw, and have not had any problems. Of course, you’ll have a spread of answers on this topic, but Intruder summarizes this issue nicely.

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    I’m not Capt. Walker. I’m the guy who keeps Mr. Dead in his pocket.
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  • Posted: 17 January 2010 03:04 PM #5

    Alan A. - 17 January 2010 04:00 PM
    Intruder - 16 January 2010 04:42 PM

    If it will give you peace of mind, purchase antivirus software.

    I believe that most, if not all, on this forum, will agree with Intruder’s comments. I personally don’t run antivirus sw, and have not had any problems. Of course, you’ll have a spread of answers on this topic, but Intruder summarizes this issue nicely.

    The only time I ran run anti-virus software was years ago when I was swapping lots of business files with Windows users. It’s not that the Mac would be infected but I did it as a courtesy so any infected files received would be cleaned before being passed on to other Windows users. But if anti-virus software buys peace of mind, by all means make the investment.

    If risks are a concern (however rare) a couple of low tech solutions:

    Set-up a non-admin user account in OS X for preparing taxes. Prepare your taxes in this account. Once the returns have been completed and filed, move the data file and copies of the returns in .pdf to a CD or DVD and remove the data from the Mac.

    I’ve used TurboTax for years as well. Since updates are performed inside the software there’s little risk of inadvertently visiting a malicious site and downloading infected files or malware.

         
  • Posted: 27 January 2010 08:10 AM #6

    As somewhat of an aside, you can d/l TT from Amazon for $43.  The only catch is it’s windows only…

         
  • Posted: 02 February 2010 01:00 PM #7

    Thanks to all who responded.  I have a second security related question.  Is there any reason to not use my new iMac to bank online?  Is there any way my bank account could become compromised?

         
  • Posted: 02 February 2010 03:11 PM #8

    Mac55 - 02 February 2010 05:00 PM

    Thanks to all who responded.  I have a second security related question.  Is there any reason to not use my new iMac to bank online?  Is there any way my bank account could become compromised?

    No reason at all, I have been using mine for nearly 3 years with no problem.  Just take the standard precautions you would with any online activity.