Can Macs get malware? Is antivirus software necessary for a Mac?
Macs and malware
If you are a Mac user, you may have been led to believe that your device is immune to malware. While it is true that Macs are less likely to get malware compared to Window, they aren’t entirely unsusceptible. It’s not hard to see why Mac users may believe they are safe since malware tends to target Windows more often, not necessarily because Macs are more secure, but more so because Windows is still an overwhelmingly popular choice when it comes to operating systems.
Every year, the number of malware for Macs increases. Currently, there are countless variants of different malware, from keyloggers to even ransomware. So if Macs are vulnerable to malware, is it necessary for you to install anti-malware software?
Mac OS X comes with built-in malware prevention measures
Over the years, Apple has introduced various features to make their operating system more secure. Gatekeeper, for example, can block software not approved by Apple from running. If you were to open a program you downloaded from the Internet, and it has not been digitally approved by Apple, an alert will pop up. Depending on your settings, you will either be asked to confirm that you wish to open a program from an unknown developer, or you would be prevented from opening it altogether. These settings can be changed in System Preferences -> Security & Privacy. You can tweak the settings to only allow apps from the App Store, apps from the App Store and identified developers, or apps from anywhere.
Another security feature Xprotect works in the background and checks every program you download with its list of malware. If the downloaded file turns out to be malware, it will be prevented from opening and a message will pop up alerting you about the issue. It’s a bit like an anti-virus program that is constantly running in the background. Though it will not delete malicious files for you, it will just block them from being opened.
Signs that your Mac device could be infected
Just like Windows, Mac computers show certain symptoms when infected with viruses, malware or something else. Generally, the computer will start running much slower, start lagging, fans will run quite loudly, you’ll notice weird programs installed, etc. If your computer is relatively new, the sudden lag will certainly be very noticeable. But it can be difficult to tell on older computers that are already running slow. Other symptoms would likely depend on the threat infecting the computer.
Adware, for example, would constantly bombard you with ads, and redirect you to weird websites. A browser hijacker would suddenly change your browser’s settings and set weird sites as your homepage. A miner trojan would use your computer’s resources to mine for cryptocurrency, which would result in weird process in your Task Manager using 70%+ of your CPU.
Some malware aims to not be detected for as long as possible so it may not show any obvious signs. Some kind of trojan could be recording your login credentials and personal information, or may be logging your keystrokes. Noticing this kind of malware can be quite difficult without anti-malware software.
- Aggressive web page banners and browser pop-ups recommending software.
- Web page text turning into hyperlinks.
- Programs appearing that you haven’t authorised.
- Mac crashes.
- Mac runs hot.
- Mac speeds up for no reason
Should you be using anti-virus for your Mac?
It’s difficult to get an objective opinion in regards to whether or not Mac devices need anti-virus software. Some believe that Macs are entirely capable of protecting themselves, while other think anti-virus is very necessary. Whether you actually need one really depends on your browsing and installation habits. If you don’t engage in any risky behaviour while browsing and download only approved apps, you should be fine. However, if you download torrents, get apps from third-party stores, tend to open emails without a second thought, and use online streaming websites for free copyrighted content, maybe you should consider getting a reliable security tool.
Most known Windows anti-virus programs offer versions for Mac computers, or you could try a solution that is solely aimed at Macs. You can find both free and paid versions, and paid anti-virus usually offer free trials.
However, we feel it’s necessary to warn you that there are a lot of fraudulent Mac anti-virus programs being advertised on the Internet. When choosing one, always do thorough research. Look into user reviews, expert opinions, see if the developer is legitimate, etc. While fraudulent security tools aren’t usually malicious, they try to trick users into purchasing software that doesn’t actually work.
How to avoid Mac malware altogether
Install adblocker. If you regularly visit high-risk website (free online streaming, adult entertainment, gambling, torrent, etc. sites), you are often exposed to unsafe ads. You could be tricked into installing questionable or outright malicious software, or be scammed. To combat these ads, you should install adblocker. It would prevent the ads that suddenly pop up when you press on something on questionable websites.
Install updates. Downloading and installing updates is one of the most important things you can do to keep your Mac secure. When a vulnerability is identified, Apple releases an update to fix it. If you don’t have automatic updates enabled, or do not install them regularly, you may miss an essential security fix. The WannaCry ransomware attack is a great example of how important updates are. Hackers used a security flaw in Windows to infect hundreds of thousands of computers with ransomware, and all of it could have been avoided had users installed an update released two months prior.
Use the App Store for your downloads. If you want to make sure that all programs you download are safe, stick to the App Store. Avoid unreliable download websites, particularly the pages advertising free programs. If the program you wish to install is not available in the App Store, use its official website to download it.
Develop good browsing habits. Good browsing habits can help you avoid all kinds of malware. For example, if you don’t open email attachments carelessly, you’ll lessen the chances of catching ransomware. If you don’t click on weird ads, you’ll be less likely to encounter a scam or accidentally download a virus.