I'm down in the dumps. Security help/advice please

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by LetsBeHopeful, Jun 22, 2010.

  1. LetsBeHopeful macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2010
    I am really down in the dumps right now. And as I'm sure you'll gather from this, I'm also a moron.

    Most people never reformat a computer, and if they do it they only do so if absolutely necessary. Due to a past experience I have an immense fear of identity theft and being hacked. It's the very reason I got a Mac, but I got cocky and my stupidity has made me miserable again. I took the attitude of "if the slightest thing seems strange I can just reformat since I have the install discs". I've reformatted so many times that I forgot how many I did it exactly.

    This last time I was absolutely determined that this would be my last reformat. This was on May 5th I believe. The computer was reformatted, but there were a few things different. Under SystemPreferences>Sharing>Internet Sharing the options were different. The options under the "Share you connection from" were listed in a different order, and the options under "To computers using" were not only different, but some were missing. Now only ethernate is listed under that. There were more options before. I also installed nothing differently, had anything plugged in that wasn't plugged in before, etc. I did it all the same way I did however many times I reformatted.

    When I ran software update to update from 10.6.1 to at the time the current version, 10.6.3, it seemed strange. First the download time went crazy. I forget the exact number, but it said one of the things downloading would take a number in the ten digit or more range of hours to download, which would have amounted to days if not weeks. Eventually it got to a more normal time, but before it would switch to the next download an extremely quick message would display in the software update area. It was quick enough that I unfortunately can't tell you what it said.

    Combo update 10.6.3 would make you restart the computer and it would be stuck on the blue screen with the turning gear for a while before it restarted. Not this last time however. It restarted almost instantly. That was very strange to me, and given all this I thought I messed up my computer beyond repair. I threw caution to the wind when using my Mac after May 5th. I figured if it was this messed up I'd need to get another one, so I could just go to any website I wanted. And I didn't give a darn about updates because I figured if my Mac is already messed up why waste the time downloading the updates? Besides, I'd just be getting a new Mac anyway. From May 5th to present time I've been using Snow Leopard version 10.6.3. There have been updates available such as Safari 5, I believe a Java update, the flash update, and of course 10.6.4, none of which I've installed.

    But then a few days ago something came to me. Maybe it's common sense. "Gee, this Mac you spent $1,700 on isn't exactly pocket change. Now you want to get another one?" And I could be wrong, but I don't think many people go out and buy a new computer 5 months after they just got one. To cut to the chase, I would LOVE to be able to start anew with my Mac. I'd love to be able to use it safely, but I'm not sure if that's possible. Because of what happened when I last reformatted and ran software update, and because I threw caution to the wind by not keeping my computer updated, I'm worried I could be at a point of no return.

    I've heard that firmware on a computer can get infected. If this were to happen, doing a billion reformats wouldn't get rid of anything bad that would be lurking. I'm also worried about my router/modem. I've heard that routers/modems can get infected. While there may not be viruses for the Mac there are trojan horses and keyloggers, and let me again say that I stupidly didn't stay on top of updates. I'm worried that my router/modem could be infected, and if the bios or firmware on it were infected then doing a billion hard resets wouldn't get rid of any issue there may be. And to be quite honest, I'd rather not have to mess around with my router/modem. I'd have to remember what username and password I used to register with my ISP 5 years ago, and in general I'd just not looking forward to reconfiguring it.

    If you're still reading this, thank you first of all. I have some questions. Please answer them, and please answer them honestly. False hope is a horrible thing and I won't learn or know anything by just being told not to worry. If there's nothing to worry about, please tell me why.

    1. Given all the reformatting I've done and how lax I was with updates this time around, is all hope gone for my Mac being a safe and stable computer? I would like to do one last reformat to wipe out anything bad that could be here due to my negligence, and then straighten up and fly right with this computer. But have I done too much damage?

    2. Do I need to do a hard reset of my router/modem since I haven't kept on top of updating and have gone to any website I wanted to? I haven't gone to porn or illegal downloading websites, but I haven't checked with Siteadvisor or anywhere else to make sure the websites I was going to were safe. How do routers/modems get infected anyway? How would I know something is wrong?

    3. Provided I do a reformat, my Mac is going to be back to Snow Leopard 10.6.1. To get it to 10.6.4 I'll need to update, but since I had that issue with software update the last time and because I want to put the update on a disc in case of a computer crash, I'd like to download the update by going to Apple's website and downloading the .dmg file. Would it be safe to go to Apple's website and download this file even though I'd be at version 10.6.1. and lacking several security updates?

    4. I've been told that I shouldn't run my Mac as an administrator and that I should create a different user account for when I'm using the internet. What sort of user account should I run my Mac as, and how do I do it?

    5. What can I do to keep my Mac safe and not have to worry about malware/trojans/identity theft/hackers?

    6. Do you think I should get a new Mac and router/modem or do you think the situation with both of them can be set right?
  2. jzuena macrumors 6502a


    Feb 21, 2007
    Lexington, MA, USA
    I doubt you have an infected firmware, but you could have garbage in your PRAM (parameter RAM) and that could get carried over when you reformat. Apple explains how to clear it and start over here. It is probably worth resetting your PRAM before doing that last reformatting to see if it is enough to stabilize your system.

    For #2, it may be worth hard resetting your modem just to allow it to run any software updates your ISP wants to download to it.

    For #3, it should be fine to download the 10.6.4 combo update when at 10.6.1, but if you have a blank CD or USB drive you could download it before reformatting, save it off to the side, and then install the update before even going online at all.

    For #4, you can set up a Standard account on a Mac which won't have the privileges of the administrator. Then if you want to perform an operation that an administrator is required for you will have to type the username and password for the administrator account. Note that any operation that needs elevated security privileges will still require you to type your password from the administrator account as well, so this recommendation was more useful for Windows users, especially users of XP and older.

    For #5, keeping your Mac (or any computer) behind a separate hardware router is the best thing you can do and you are already doing that.

    For #6, I don't think there is a hardware issue with the Mac, but since it is less than 1 year old you can take it to an Apple store and have them look at it. They could also do the OS reinstall and update it to 10.6.4. For the modem, did you buy it or is it supplied by your ISP? If it is a rental supplied by your ISP, you may be able to get a new one at no cost if yours is having problems.
  3. LetsBeHopeful thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2010
    Would it be safe to download the 10.6.4 update and put it on a disc even though I don't have updates installed now? Couldn't the 10.6.4 update file and/or the rest of the disc get infected and carry something over when I'd install it after the reformat?
  4. soley macrumors newbie

    Jun 5, 2010
    You should do what Richard Stallman does & never browse the internet. Instead, use wget to download webpages you want to view & browse them locally. Also use fetchmail for your email.

    Seriously, man, you're being way too paranoid. I'm not even that paranoid when I'm running Windows. And I'm definitely not even remotely concerned when I'm in Linux. You're running the second most secure OS that's out there (or third counting the BSD's as their own)

    Most websites distributing malware aren't putting malware up for OS X or Linux. Why? Because combined, it's only like 9% of the market share.

    I'll go through & answer your questions now:

    1. Is your mac working? If it is, you're fine.

    2. Reset your router/modem? What do you think this will do for you? I've never heard of a virus on a router. I mean, I guess it's possible. But, once again, why would anyone write a virus for a router? You're fine.

    3. lolwut? Just update the frakking OS, man.

    4. A non-admin account. Given that OS X, be default, requires you to enter passwords to install software (making yourself root by sudo), I really don't think you have much to worry about here.

    5. Nothing. If you're somewhat intelligent with computers, you'll never have a virus on OS X. You have to be a complete moron to let this happen.

    6. hahahahah no

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