Keeping things secure in a dual-platform world
A Mac that runs Windows is as susceptible to viruses, Trojans and spyware as any Windows PC. And it's not just Windows and files created using Windows that are in danger; malware can affect any files and folders that are accessible to Windows and its applications. That means that if you use MacDrive or shared folders with a virtualization tool, your Mac files may by vulnerable too.
There are a couple of ways to help secure files on a Mac's hard drive against damage. The first and most obvious choice is to ensure that you are running solid and up-to-date antivirus and antispyware tools for Windows. Also, you should ensure that the built-in firewalls included in both Windows and Mac OS X are properly configured to secure access to your machine.
You should also consider antivirus and anti-malware tools for Mac OS X. Commercial offerings are available from Symantec, Sophos, Intego and McAfee. At the very least, you should consider the open-source ClamXav. These programs can provide protection against Windows viruses propagating into files on your Mac partition or hard drive, as well as against potential Mac virus threats.
You can also limit the access that Windows has to your Mac's hard drive. Virtualization tools let you designate shared folders as read-only from Windows, thus preventing viruses from being able to alter or contaminate them.
Another approach is to create just one shared folder that contains only files that you need to transfer between operating systems, rather than allowing full-scale access to the hard drive or your home directory. While this will enhance security, the flip side is that it will also limit usability.
Once your Mac is set up and secured for optimal use with Windows, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Ryan Faas is a frequent Computerworld contributor specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. You can find more information about him at RyanFaas.com.