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FixMeStick for Mac: First plug-in and plug-out device that anyone can use to remove hard-to-detect malware from Apple computers.

FixMeStick in the press:

 What is it?

The FixMeStick for Mac is a bootable USB device that makes virus removal simple, and won't harm your Mac. It’s also, as far as we can tell, the first bootable external device for the Macintosh line.  

FEB - 14: THANK YOU TO ALL KICKSTARTER BACKERS. IF YOU MISSED THIS PROJECT'S KICKSTARTER DEADLINE, YOU CAN PRE-ORDER A FIXMESTICK FOR MAC FROM OUR WEBSITE. 

Why do I need it? 

Macs have gained so much market share, they've become a target for malware. For example, the Flashback virus infected around 1% of the world's Macs - yikes!

Viruses that get past anti-virus can be impossible to find or remove after the fact. A computer virus is like a double-agent or mole inside your system - it’s in a position to circumvent security software, making it hard to find.

How do I use it? 

Simply insert a FixMeStick into your Mac's USB port, reboot, and let it run. When it's done scanning for viruses, you click "exit" and the FixMeStick reboots your Mac back into your regular Mac OS. No software is ever installed on your Mac, i.e. software conflicts or performance problems are technologically impossible with the FixMeStick.  

The Mac hardware loads the FixMeStick system instead of MacOS, so any malware running in MacOS is not running while the FixMeStick is. This makes malware removal a lot easier.
The Mac hardware loads the FixMeStick system instead of MacOS, so any malware running in MacOS is not running while the FixMeStick is. This makes malware removal a lot easier.

How does it fit into the bigger cyber-security problem? 

People increasingly have to contend with viruses on their computing devices. More Internet commerce means more Internet thieves, and Internet thieves have an inherent advantage: they get the first move, which they use to attack where they know they'll succeed. 

The one advantage we all have over Internet thieves is physical access  to our own computers (hackers may have network access to your computer, but they can't physically touch it), which means that, we can shut down the infected OS and clean it with an external and known clean device - like the FixMeStick. 

Indeed, independent industry and government organizations (including the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre, the Australian Government's Cybersecurity Project) recommend people use a "live-CD, rescue-CD, or trusted bootable USB" to scan and clean an infected computer. The FixMeStick is just such a device!

What else does it do?

  • Runs from a USB device and doesn't install software to your Mac so won't slow down your computer or interfere with whatever else you’re doing. 
  • Rapid reaction to new and emerging threats with intelligent scanning that uses 3 different scanning engines in parallel. 
  • Ready to go right out of the box. No installation or downloading required. 
  • Automatic updates stored directly on the device. No software installed on your Mac. 
  • Works on wired and WiFi networks. 
Conceptually this is how the FixMeStick functions. Technically, the software on the FixMeStick is loaded by the Mac hardware and is run there.
Conceptually this is how the FixMeStick functions. Technically, the software on the FixMeStick is loaded by the Mac hardware and is run there.

Who are you guys?

We're computer security geeks! And, of course, we get the calls from friends and family members when they have a computer problem. More and more frequently that computer is a Mac.

Corey and Marty bootstrapping the FixMeStick circa 2011.
Corey and Marty bootstrapping the FixMeStick circa 2011.

We launched the FixMeStick PC version in May 2012, and not a day has passed since then that we’ve not received an inquiry about a Mac version. We're excited to have the opportunity to develop the Mac version with your help!

We launched the FixMeStick virus removal device for PCs in 2012.
We launched the FixMeStick virus removal device for PCs in 2012.

You can also see us on CBC's Dragons Den tonight...

See how we handle Dragons.
See how we handle Dragons.

 Technical details? 

  • The FixMeStick for Mac is for Macs only, i.e. the FixMeStick for Mac won’t work on PCs.
  • The FixMeStick for Mac is a Linux-based device that runs before Mac OS boots. This enables the FixMeStick to remove infections without the infection running first and entering stealth mode(s) or blocking security software from running (or, running correctly). 
  • It contains a built-in multi-scanner composed of three awesome anti-virus engines: Kaspersky Labs, Sophos, and ThreatTrack's VIPRE. 
  • The technology is integrated behind a single full-screen application, e.g. you’ll never see Linux, or any of the three anti-virus engines.

What’s the funding for? 

The FixMeStick for Mac re-uses a lot of what we built for the FixMeStick for PC. But there are a few critical differences that are must-haves for it to work.

We’ve built a FixMeStick for Mac prototype, and the funds we raise in this Kickstarter project will go towards:

External Boot: 

  • Macs use a different type of boot firmware (the first code executed when the hardware is powered on) than PCs. Macintosh’s use a technology named UEFI, whereas essentially all PCs use the BIOS interface. 
  • And, different Macintosh computers have different versions of UEFI firmware that support booting external media in different and incompatible ways. 
  • We need to determine which approach will work on the largest percentage of Macs, without requiring people to make difficult or risky changes to their machine (or minimizing such changes to an acceptable level). 
  • For example, some Macs can directly boot an external USB mass storage device, some can't, but some can be modified to boot an intermediary boot loader.

File System

Macs also use a different file system (HFS+) than essentially all PCs (NTFS, FAT32, exFAT). We need to:

  • Integrate a HFS+ file system driver for the FixMeStick’s Linux-based operating system. 
  • Make it so reads are fast, and writes don’t break anything, e.g. compatibility with Mac OS file permissions, and HFS+ journaling.

Virus Definitions

We need the FixMeStick for Mac device to contain virus scanners that use Mac virus definitions. This just requires some integration effort with our current anti-virus SDK providers. 

Next steps?

There you have it! We’re excited about this project, we’re looking forward to hearing what you think, and appreciate any help you provide to make it happen!

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

We have a tonne of experience in Internet security, and bootable devices like the FixMeStick. Compatibility with a broad range of legacy Mac hardware is going to be the central challenge to this project. We've got your back though. If your FixMeStick doesn't work on your Mac, you can return it for full refund, no problem.

FAQ

  • There will be a renewal required (for all Kickstarter backers, it will be $20/year for the regular FixMeSticks and $100/year for the Pros) to continue using the FixMeStick. The reason for the ongoing feeis that there is an ongoing cost for the latest virus definitions which get automatically downloaded onto the FixMeStick each time it runs. Since viruses change so quickly (by the minute), the FixMeStick wouldn't be very effective without these updates.

    Renewal will be painless- no need to send the FixMeStick back to us or anything. The FixMeStick will realize it is expired and will prompt for a credit card number, Simple as that.

    Last updated:
  • The regular FixMeStick works an unlimited number of times on up to 3 Macs each month. The PRO works an unlimited number of times on an unlimited number of Macs each month,

    Last updated:
  • Licensing is reset each calendar month. So,you can use the regular FixMeStick an unlimited number of times on up to 3 Macs in January. Then, in February, you can use it on 3 completely different Macs (or the same ones). So, if you get a new Mac, at worst, you'll have to wait until the next calendar month to use it. We think this approach is simpler for the user than assigning licenses to specific Macs and having to manage that list when you get a new Mac.

    Last updated:
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    For $30 you are pre-ordering and will receive one FixMeStick for Mac (save $30 on MSRP of $60). Works an unlimited number of times on up to 3 different Macs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $35 you will receive one FixMeStick for Mac (save $25 on MSRP of $60). Works an unlimited number of times on up to 3 different Macs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $45 you will receive one FixMeStick for Mac (save $15 on MSRP of $60). Works an unlimited number of times on up to 3 different Macs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $55 you are pre-ordering and will receive one FixMeStick for Mac (save $25 on MSRP of $60) and one year renewal (save $34.99 on MSRP of $54.99). NOTE - all backers will have access to this $54.99 - $34.99 = $20 renewal price (see first Update), and this reward is specifically for those backers who requested a way to increase their pledge and help this project over the finish line (Incredible. Thank you.) Works an unlimited number of times on up to 3 different Macs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $60 you will receive one FixMeStick for Mac plus one FixMeStick for PC (save $60 on MSRP of $120). Each FixMeStick works an unlimited number of times on up to 3 different Macs\PCs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $80 you will receive one FixMeStick for Mac plus one FixMeStick for PC (save $40 on MSRP of $120). Each FixMeStick works an unlimited number of times on up to 3 different Macs\PCs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $150 you will receive one FixMeStick PRO for Mac (save $150 on MSRP of $300). Works an unlimited number of times on an unlimited number of Macs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $200 you will receive one FixMeStick PRO for Mac (save $100 on MSRP of $300). Works an unlimited number of times on an unlimited number of Macs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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    For $300 you will receive one FixMeStick PRO for Mac plus one FixMeStick PRO for PC (save $300 on MSRP of $600). Works an unlimited number of times on an unlimited number of Macs\PCs for one year starting from the date of first use. We'll pay shipping to anywhere in the world.

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