Google-owned VirusTotal releases file-scanning tool for Mac users

The desktop app allows Mac users to easily send files to be scanned with over 50 antivirus engines

Popular file and URL scanning service VirusTotal released a new application that allows Mac OS X users to scan suspicious files with more than 50 antivirus engines supported by the service.

The tool, VirusTotal Mac OSX Uploader, can be used to scan individual files, Mac apps or entire folders. The items can be dragged and dropped into the uploader's interface or sent to the service for scanning by right clicking on them and using the "open with" menu.

The uploader uses the VirusTotal public API (application programming interface) so is limited to four requests per minute. Scanning a large number of files is possible, but the app will schedule them and the whole operation can take a long time.

VirusTotal is not a substitute for desktop anti-malware products because it doesn't provide real-time detection and protection, only on-demand file scanning. It can be used to get a second opinion on suspicious files, but users should be aware that when scanning with such a large set of antivirus engines the likelihood of encountering bogus detections is higher.

A VirusTotal scan report with detections from only a couple of antivirus engines out of 50 can mean both a false positive or a new malware variant, so interpreting the results is not always straightforward. However, because VirusTotal shares the malicious files it receives with antivirus vendors that didn't detect them, using the service can generally end up helping other users.

The hope is that the tool, which has been tested on OS X 10.8 and 10.9, "will lead to VirusTotal receiving more Mac applications, diving deeper into an increasingly targeted OS by attackers and allowing antivirus companies and researchers making use of VirusTotal's backend to build stronger defenses against these threats," said Karl Hiramoto, technical account manager at VirusTotal, in a blog post.

VirusTotal was launched in 2004 by Spanish security company Hispasec Sistemas, but was acquired by Google in September 2012.

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