Macs, FlashBack Virus, and using the Terminal

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Apple, apps, computers, Security, software
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When people hear “terminal” they immediately think of being at death’s door, which is why it confuses me why Apple calls their command-line program Terminal. It is not something to be hiding from. The command-line is something that can be very useful. For instance, seeing everything on your Mac can make it easier to perform certain functions, such as deleting the files associated with the FlashBack virus.

There are all kinds of stories about the FlashBack virus, and if you are concerned you may have it, go to github and download the checker app here.  It’s a small download and while it won’t remove the virus from your Mac, it will check to see if you are infected.  If you are infected, thankfully Apple has addressed the issue, although many people had already followed the directions to remove the virus manually, such as one of my coworkers.  It  is not that tough to do, but you do need to fire up the Terminal and get all command-liney with it.  If you want to do it the easy way, check out the Apple security update info here.

Getting back to the Terminal though, one thing that comes in handy as alluded to earlier, is the ability to see all the hidden files on your Mac.  Part of removing the virus manually requires you to get rid of a few hidden files buried deep in your library.  The easiest way to see the hidden files is with a third-party app like MainMenu (paid), TinkerTool (free) or Onyx (free).  But if you don’t have any of those already installed, don’t despair, Terminal is pre-installed on every Mac running any recent version of OS X.

Open it up and you are greeted with a screen that harkens back to the old DOS days of typing out commands.  At the command prompt type the following…

(NOTE:  all commands below are to be typed without the quotes.)

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

then return and type:

killall Finder”

You will now see all the hidden files in all directories and on your desktop.

and to change it back:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE”

again followed by:

killall Finder

The command is the same, just changing the last word which is the setting from TRUE, being on, to FALSE, being off.  A simple setting that gets repeated all over the place in any Unix based OS like OS X.   Many times commands are either on or off, true or false.  That is just one simple example of what can be done with just a few words and no need to install anything.

The Terminal is your friend.  Don’t be afraid, but do be cautious.  A spelling mistake can prove disastrous.  I hope it is not too late to mention, but remember to backup your Mac before you start deleting anything, even if cleaning off a virus.  There are no do-overs or undos when it comes to Terminal commands.

Happy command-lining,




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