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My mother-in-law bit on a fake email ("Your USPS package...") sent to her AOL account and opened the attachment with her iMac. She's on 10.5. She called us shortly after she realized that the attachment wasn't opening. No symptoms yet. What is the impact? What diagnostic/recovery/protection steps should I take? (other than making sure in the future she's up-to-date with her operating system and has an antivirus)

No antivirus. There's a partial backup but it's on a hard drive that's connected; can I trust it?

  • While not exactly a duplicate, this question & answers will provide you with a list of software alternatives for scanning & removing various virus and malware. – fsb Dec 27 '16 at 15:51
  • Definitively not a duplicate :-) – nohillside Dec 27 '16 at 16:21
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    @patrix, yea, but I thought the answers had some good info the OP could use. – fsb Dec 27 '16 at 16:56
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There is a rather high chance that the attachment was primarily targeting Windows system and didn't actually trigger anything on the Mac. Nevertheless the risk isn't zero.

What I would do in a similar situation if I wanted to reduce the risk and had a lot of time at my hand:

  • Tell her to shut the Mac down
  • Get an external drive big enough for the whole disk (an iMac with 10.5 is rather old, so make sure you get one with the right ports. USB2 isn't really advisable here)
  • Pay her a visit, boot the iMac from DVD and backup the whole disk to the external drive. If you can get the user-installed applications back easily you can also just backup the user folder(s)
  • Detach/eject the external drive
  • Reboot normally and log in to take note of
    • accounts configured in Mail etc.
    • usernames/passwords stored in Keychain
  • Reboot from DVD again and make a full reinstall of the OS from DVD
  • Upgrade to whatever macOS version you want to/can upgrade to (make at least sure to install all security updates)
  • Install an antivirus software (for what it's worth) and make sure the signature files are up to date
  • Attach the external drive again and run a virus scan on it
  • Create new user(s) and get the data back from the external drive
  • Enable Time Machine
  • Don't have an install DVD (she got it used, once we found out the DVD wasn't included we asked but the original owner had chucked it). So I guess I gotta find someone else with an install DVD? – Snowbody Dec 27 '16 at 18:57
  • Sooner or later it might be cheaper to get a new or refurbished Mac mini together with a 3rd party monitor and start anew, depending on how much spare time you have :-) – nohillside Dec 27 '16 at 19:31
  • You could try to boot from an USB stick, but I don't know whether iMacs that old even are able to boot from a stick. Or just get her a backup strategy, antivirus software (if you find any for 10.5) and hope for the best – nohillside Dec 27 '16 at 19:33

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