Kaspersky is expanding its scope by offering Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Mac, its first security program for the Apple Mac. But how much does the Mac need anti-virus, and does it work?

Anti-virus software for the Mac remains a contentious topic, not least because - today at least - there are no viruses that can infect the Macintosh. But that's not to say that there is no malware crafted to infiltrate OS X.

In the last few years there has been a smattering of trojans and worms, which the user can be tricked into manually installing, either disguised as browser codecs or hidden inside some Adobe and Apple iWork software packages on file-sharing BitTorrent sites. Infection from such packages is not a covert process though, as you'd be prompted for an administrator password before installation.

Kaspersky Lab has built a reputation with its anti-virus (AV) and internet security products for Windows. In fact the Moscow-based company was one of the first to see the necessity of developing solutions to protect PCs, back in the 1990s when viruses were more an inconvenience that might flash annoying messages on the screen or at worst corrupt your hard drive.That was before money-making opportunities were exploited from lax personal computer secirity.

Today of course PC malware is an especially lucrative business, not just for the high-profile security companies who sell yearly subscriptions for their protection, but the unseen hackers and criminal organisations who try their best to install their nefarious code on unsuspecting people's PCs.

Their aim: to gain access to a computer in order to harvest personal details (such as credit card information) that can be used to defraud banks and shops, or to build a botnet from a network of thousands of compromised PCs.

This ‘robot network' can then be pressed into service at will to send spam, or bring down a particular website or an online business through a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack. Or used in extortion scams, by merely threatening to do so unless a business pays a ransom to be left unmolested.

Read more antivirus reviews

There have also been claims of patriotically motivated hackers using their tamed botnets to attack a whole nation's government, as happened to states such as Estonia and Georgia after political rows with Russia.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus (KAV) for Mac is an AV-only package - that is, it offers no additional firewall, weblink screening, system resource monitoring or personal identity data safeguards, as you'll find in the company's own entry-level Windows AV product, let alone its more comprehensive internet security suite.

Additionally, while Windows AV programs often add heuristic testing to snag as-yet-unlisted threats based on their dynamic behaviour, the program's recognition of Mac malware seems to be focused on signature recognition.

Given its reduced feature set, we wonder why Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Mac has a high UK retail price of £40 - the same as that of Kaspersky's complete internet security suite for Windows. Meanwhile Kaspersky's sophisticated AV-only package for Windows is 25% cheaper at £30.

Nevertheless the scope of Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Mac is relatively wide. It continually checks for definition updates every 30 minutes (adjustable in the preferences pane), and it claims safeguards to prevent removal by a hostile agent. The depth of scanning can be tweaked also, and the program creates comprehensive logs, and its update downloading is compatible with proxy servers.

NEXT PAGE: More features and app performance >>