Former Windows computer users often wonder if antivirus software should be installed on a Mac device. If you google this question, you can find completely opposite opinions. Some argue that you need to protect all Apple gadgets, from a smartphone to a computer, while others insist that there is no malware or viruses for macOS or iOS.

Do I Need to Check My Mac for Malware?

Are there viruses aimed at Mac devices?

There is a misconception that the macOS operating system is totally protected, and there are no viruses for Apple computers. There are many malicious programs for Apple devices, but their number is many times smaller than for Windows PCs, and it is much harder to identify them.

MacOS developers are actively finding and fixing system vulnerabilities. Third-party applications are literally locked in the sandbox and cannot access system files. All this minimizes the risk of macOS infections. The virus cannot infect the system while surfing the Internet or when receiving an email with infected files.

The user must personally allow the virus to access the system or data, which will be accompanied by many dialog boxes and requests to enter an administrator password. It is extremely difficult to do this by accident.

Ways to infect Mac devices

The creators of Mac malware need to force the user to manually install it and give access to the system. To do this, spam email campaigns, rogue banner ads, or redirecting users to different sites are most often used.

The first step is to make the victim believe that something dangerous has happened and his computer has been infected with a virus. Then, under the guise of solving a problem, cyber crooks offer a free antivirus, which is actually a malicious program. The user installs this software, gives it all the necessary permissions, and then loses his data, which is sent directly to the server of the virus creator.

What can viruses do?

Most existing Mac malware is aimed at obtaining confidential information. Such viruses can steal contact details, data from the address book, passwords, or bank card info. There are also special malicious tools that use Mac computing resources, forcing your Mac to earn cryptocurrency for the virus creator or help to launch a DDoS attack.

However, for now, there is no malicious software that can completely break down your macOS. There are separate pieces of code on the network that can do this, but researchers still have not found any ready-made solutions for mass Mac infection.

The adware that displays a lot of banner ads redirects to pornographic sites or sends notifications to friends is present, but again, it cannot really harm your device.

How is macOS protected?

Starting with Mac OS X Leopard, Apple has introduced a new security feature called Gatekeeper. The first time you launch a new application on a Mac, the developer’s certificate gets verified, the program gets verified against the database of known malicious applications, and a number of other security procedures get launched. This allows to keep the most common infections and software with critical security vulnerabilities at bay.

However, Gatekeeper will not protect the system if the certificate of the verified developer is in the hands of the creator of the virus or if the virus is built into a software update that has already passed the system check. This new built-in protection minimizes the risk of Mac infections but does not protect you 100%.

How to scan Mac for viruses?

Virus scanning can be done by using popular antivirus tools or by checking suspicious data online. Important: no website can scan your Mac device for viruses distantly! If you received such an offer, most often, this is a scam, forcing you to install malware on your computer.

It is recommended to download and install antivirus software only from the official Apple store or companies involved in the development of such software.

Here is a list of popular antiviruses for Mac:

  • Avast Security
  • Avira Free Antivirus
  • ESET NOD32 Cyber ​​Security

If you do not want to download additional software, you can check files using online solutions. For online file checking, you can use the VirusTotal service, which is the most extensive database for online checking of files and potentially dangerous links.

To protect or not to protect?

Antiviruses can give the user confidence and lull his alertness to real threats. Such software is more useful when using Windows rather than macOS. The developers at Cupertino have done everything possible to minimize risks and protect your computers from malware. What is left is to adhere to basic safety principles.

First of all, upgrade macOS to the latest available version. Most system updates fix known vulnerabilities and holes that can be used by virus creators. Secondly, install apps only from the App Store, or from the trusted developers’ websites. Third, do not visit dubious sites or resources. Fourth, do not open attachments in the email or messengers sent by unfamiliar senders. Fifth, if you need to use a file downloaded from the network, pre-check it using online services. Last but not least, mind what permissions you grant to apps. Although these recommendations are simple, they are time-tested.

iLounge author Lucy Bennett

Lucy Bennett is a Contributing Editor at iLounge. She has been writing about Apple and technology for over six years. Prior to joining iLounge, Lucy worked as a writer for several online publications.