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The 4 Best Internet Security for Mac (2023 Update)
By Tibor Moes / Updated: August 2023
Do you need internet security for Mac? Yes, you certainly do.
- First, today’s digital world exposes you to an alarming variety of cyber threats. With an internet security solution, you can secure your sensitive data and safeguard your Mac against malware and phishing attacks.
- Second, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting Macs, dispelling the myth that Apple devices are immune to threats. According to Malwarebytes, attacks increased by more than 200 percent in 2021, to 164 million.
- Lastly, an effective internet security suite provides comprehensive protection beyond just antivirus, such as firewalls, password managers, VPNs, and secure browsing features.
By investing in the best internet security for Mac, you are not merely buying software; you’re gaining peace of mind.
Ranked #1 of 28 Antivirus for Mac
- Device Security 100% 100%
- Privacy Protection 100% 100%
- Malware protection: 100%. Norton removed all malware in the last 10 protection tests for macOS. It will keep your Macbook secure.
- Speed impact: 100%. Norton had no negative speed impact in the last 10 performance tests. It will keep your Macbook quick and capable.
- Features: 100%. Norton offers anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, parental controls, dark web monitor, and more.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
Ranked #2 of 28 Antivirus for Mac
- Device Security 75% 75%
- Privacy Protection 90% 90%
Intego offers good protection and bonus features for macOS. However, the VPN costs extra, and it has no password manager.
- Malware protection: 75%. Intego has good protection test results, but can’t match the anti-malware test scores of Norton.
- Speed impact: 75%. Intego had a small speed impact on the performance tests. So it won’t significantly slow down your Macbook.
- Features: 85%. It offers anti-phishing, firewall, parental controls, backup, and disk optimizer. The VPN is excellent but costs extra.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
The best internet security for Mac
We have reviewed security software since 2014. Based on our in-depth tests of 28 antivirus brands in 2023, these are the best internet security for Mac:
We have tested their anti-malware protection, security features, speed impact, false positives, and price. Scroll down to read the in-depth reviews.
Ranked #1 of 28 Antivirus for Mac
Norton has the best device, privacy, and identity protection for Mac. It has perfect test scores and includes all the features you need.
- Malware protection: 100%. Norton averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 protection tests for Mac. It is excellent at detecting malware. And in contrast to other brands, Norton participated in every test.
- Speed impact: 100%. Norton averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 performance tests for Mac. It does not slow down your Macbook. And in contrast to other brands, Norton participated in every test.
- Features: 100%. Norton offers anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, parental controls, dark web monitor, and more.
- Price: 95%. Norton has considerably more features for Mac than its competitors. It’s not cheap but offers the best value for money.
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Norton 360 Antivirus for Mac Review
Norton’s antivirus software for Mac comes in 5 packages:
- Norton Antivirus Plus costs € 15 (Europe) or $ 20 (USA). It offers antivirus, a firewall, and a password manager. It protects 1 PC or Mac.
- Norton 360 Standard costs € 30 (Europe) or $ 40 (USA). It adds a VPN and dark web monitoring. It protects 1 (Europe) or 3 (USA) devices.
- Norton 360 Deluxe costs € 35 (Europe) or $ 50 (USA). It adds a privacy monitor and parental controls. It protects 5 devices.
- Norton 360 Advanced costs € 40 in Europe and is not sold in the USA. It adds identity theft protection and protects 10 devices.
- Norton 360 Select + LifeLock costs $ 99 in the USA and is not sold in Europe. It adds LifeLock identity theft protection and protects 10 devices.
We’ll discuss each feature below:
Norton’s antivirus for Mac consists of a central dashboard, called My Norton, from which you can access the various security features. We’ll discuss each:
As most Mac users want to keep things simple, Norton has added the Quick Scan and Live Update buttons that allow you to update the software, run a quick scan of your Mac, and get on with the rest of your day.
But sometimes, you’re in the mood for a bit more. That is when you hit the Open button to access the advanced features and settings.
- Add Devices: Send a download link to another device via text or email, or scan the QR code to install Norton’s app on your phone.
- Scan: Run a Quick Scan, Full System Scan, or File Scan to check your entire Mac or a specific file.
- LiveUpdate: Download the latest product updates and malware database to your Mac to keep your security updated.
- Clean: Search and remove temporary, duplicate, or similar files to clear up space on your hard drive.
- Protect My Mac: Customize your system scans by including or excluding specific folders.
- Firewall: Adjust the firewall to block specific applications, protect vulnerabilities, or sharpen the firewall’s network awareness.
- Safe Web: Install Norton’s Safe Web browser extension on Safari, Chrome, or Firefox to block malicious websites before visiting them.
- Activity: See the security history of your Mac, including firewall blocks, scans, threat detections, and updates.
- Product Settings: Access Silent Mode, Error Management, Automatic Upgrades, and Norton Community Watch.
Anti-Malware Test Results
Norton’s malware removal for Mac is exceptional. Its test scores in the independent test lab, AV-Test, have been consistently 100% since tests for Mac began in June 2017.
No other brand has a perfect track record on macOS. Avast, Avira, AVG, Bitdefender, F-Secure, Intego, Kaspersky, MacKeeper, TotalAV, and TrendMicro all fall behind Norton when averaging the test results.
Dark Web Monitoring
Norton can search the Dark Web for your data and email you if any of it is sold by hackers. It can search for your Address, Driver’s License, Insurance, Mother’s Maiden Name, Gamer Tag, Email, Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, and Phone Numbers.
Norton has become a leader in identity theft protection thanks to its Dark Web Monitoring and its LifeLock features available in the US.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) makes you anonymous online and safe on public Wi-Fi networks. It does this by encrypting your internet connection and hiding your IP address. This significantly increases your online safety.
Where most competitors’ VPNs have a data limit of a few hundred MB per day, Norton has included an unlimited VPN for free. It’s fast, secure, private (no logs), works with Netflix, and allows you to download torrents.
Although it will be enough for most users, privacy wonks prefer Intego’s VPN. Intego’s VPN is far more advanced as it includes a kill switch, split tunnel, auto-connect, and a range of customizable features. Still, Norton’s VPN is included for free, while you’ll need to pay extra for Intego’s VPN.
Norton’s password manager is excellent. It helps you create and store ultra-secure passwords and auto-fills them when logging onto a website. It also automatically syncs those passwords on all your devices.
We like that you can use your phone’s fingerprint or facial recognition to log in to your password vault on your phone and your Mac.
Norton’s parental controls allow you to monitor and protect your kids online. For example, you can block specific websites and apps and set screen time rules.
Is Norton 360 the best internet security for Mac?
Yes, it is. By featuring anti-malware, web protection, a firewall, an unlimited VPN, a password manager, parental controls, and dark web monitoring, Norton is far more than just an antivirus program for macOS.
Norton is the most complete security software you can buy. It offers both the best virus protection and the best internet security for Mac.
You can try Norton risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
Ranked #2 of 28 Antivirus for Mac
Intego offers good protection and bonus features for macOS. However, the VPN costs extra, and it has no password manager.
- Malware protection: 75%. Intego averaged 5.75 out of 6 in the last protection tests. It is good at detecting and removing malware. Sadly, the data set is small, as it participated only 2 times in the last 10 tests.
- Speed impact: 75%. Intego averaged 5.75 out of 6 in the last performance tests. It has a small impact on the speed of your Mac. The data set is small, as it participated only 2 times in the last 10 tests.
- Features: 85%. It offers anti-phishing, firewall, parental controls, backup, and disk optimizer. The VPN is excellent, but costs extra.
- Price: 85%. Intego is affordable if you want basic protection for a single Mac. But it’s pricey if you want all features, including the VPN.
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Intego Antivirus for Mac Review
Intego’s antivirus software for Mac comes in 3 packages:
- Mac Internet Security X9 – the entry-level solution at € 25 – includes the two core features: Anti-malware and firewall
- Mac Security and Performance – the mid-level solution at € 27 – adds the Mac optimizer (called Washing Machine).
- Mac Premium Bundle X9 – the top-level solution at € 60 – adds parental controls (called ContentBarrier) and Personal Backup.
With each package, you can buy the VPN as an optional extra at € 20.
Below we’ll discuss each feature.
Intego has named its anti-malware for Mac the VirusBarrier. And it’s excellent. It consists of a real-time scanner, quick scan, full scan, and scheduled scan. And can hunt for various malware types, including:
- Mac malware
- Windows malware
- Linux malware
- Malicious scripts
- Hacking tools
On top of that, it can scan external harddisks and devices, including your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It can even check your email if you use the Apple Mail app.
We’re big fans of Intego’s firewall, called the NetBarrier.
What we love most about it is its interface. Let’s be honest; not everyone enjoys studying the ins and outs of firewalls. Intego solves that perfectly by using a user-friendly layout that explains the concept perfectly.
On top of that, it will automatically detect whether you are at home, work, or on a public Wi-Fi network and adjust its security settings for both internet and local connections accordingly.
It’s an excellent firewall.
Although Mac users already have their fair share of backup options, thanks to the Time Machine and iCloud Drive, Intego has built its own and called it the Personal backup.
It allows you to back up and sync your entire hard drive, or individual files and folders, to an external hard disk. So it’s similar to iCloud Drive but doesn’t charge a monthly subscription fee.
Of course, unlike iCloud Drive, you must supply your own hard drive.
Intego helps you to optimize your Mac with its Washing Machine feature. It will enable you to:
- Reclaim disk space by finding and deleting junk files.
- Remove duplicate files to free up even more disk space.
- Organize your Desktop and Dock, and order files into Smart Folders.
Intego’s parental controls, the ContentBarrier, allow you to monitor and protect your kids online. It’s easy to set up, thanks to its pre-designed protection levels, focused on teenagers or young kids.
But it also offers a wealth of customization options if you want to get your hands dirty. Amongst others, you can:
- Block websites and apps by category or individually.
- Record chats, screenshots, and even keystrokes.
- Get automated reports via email.
One of the most notable features is the Anti-Predator alert, which instantly sends you an email when your child engages with a bad actor in a chat room. Intego recognizes this via speech patterns and word choice.
As you might already know, a VPN encrypts your internet connection and hides your IP address online. This makes you anonymous online and secure on public Wi-Fi.
Intego’s VPN, Privacy Protect, is an optional feature that costs extra. It’s based on the Private Internet Access VPN, also owned by Intego’s parent company, Kape Technologies.
And we must admit, we are huge fans of the VPN. It is lightning-fast, secure (no leaks), private (no logs), and works with streaming services (Netflix) and torrent clients (uTorrent). And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s the most customizable VPN we have ever tested on Mac.
Is Intego the best internet security for Mac?
Intego is the only real competitor to Norton. Although it misses a few features compared to Norton, like the password manager and dark web monitoring, it compensates with its intuitive firewall and advanced VPN.
However, remember that Intego is primarily designed to protect macOS, the operating system of MacBooks and iMacs. Although the company has recently launched Intego antivirus for Windows, it’s not very good.
So if you only want to protect a Mac, Intego is excellent. But if you also want to safeguard an Android phone or Windows PC, Norton is a better choice.
You can try Intego risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Ranked #3 of 28 Antivirus for Mac
Kaspersky is one of our favorite antivirus programs for Mac. Get the Plus or Premium plan to access the password manager and VPN.
- Malware protection: 100%. Kaspersky averaged 6 out of 6 in the last protection tests. It is excellent at detecting and removing malware. But, the data set is small, as it participated 4 times in the last 10 tests.
- Speed impact: 90%. Kaspersky averaged 5.90 out of 6 in the last performance tests. It has a minimal speed impact. But, the data set is limited, as it participated only 4 times in the last 10 tests.
- Features: 100%. Kaspersky offers anti-phishing, firewall, VPN, password manager, parental controls, dark web monitor, and more.
- Price: 100%. Kaspersky and Norton are evenly matched in features for Mac. But Norton has deeper first-year discounts.
Discount: Save up to 50% at Kaspersky
Kaspersky Antivirus for Mac Review
Kaspersky has replaced the old product names Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Internet Security, and Total Security, with Standard, Plus, and Premium.
- Kaspersky Standard starts at € 30 (Europe) or $ 42 (USA). It offers antivirus, anti-phishing, and a firewall. It protects 1 to 5 devices.
- Kaspersky Plus starts at € 38 (Europe) or $ 57 (USA). It adds a firewall and an unlimited VPN. It protects 1 to 5 devices.
- Kaspersky Premium starts at € 48 (Europe) or $ 82 (USA). It adds identity protection and parental controls. It protects 1 to 20 devices.
Below we discuss all the security features that you can access.
The protection center gives you insight into the following:
- Your license duration
- Active threats on your Mac
- Real-time protection
- Database status
It also helps you install the excellent browser extension called Kaspersky Security. It offers the most extensive web protection that we have tested and includes a range of features that can be turned on and off individually:
- Web antivirus: Scan incoming data and get notified of threats.
- Website tracking: Stop sites from installing cookies into your browser that track your activities online. By default, this feature is off.
- Safe money: Check the authenticity of e-commerce stores and online banks and their security certificates.
- URL advisor: Know whether a link is safe to click before clicking it.
- Onscreen keyboard: Type passwords into a digital, rather than physical, keyboard to avoid being tracked by keyloggers.
All the usual suspects are present, such as the quick scan, full scan, and scheduled scan. There is also the option to scan an individual file or folder. Then, in typical Apple fashion, you can drag and drop the file into the window to scan it, which we like.
Ensure the database’s malware samples are up to date to get the highest possible malware detection rate. Kaspersky itself also updates the database at regular intervals. But if you want to run a scan, updating the database first is also handy.
The privacy section includes two features:
- Block webcam: Block all apps from accessing your webcam. It’s a nice feature because few other antivirus tools offer it on Mac. But it would be even better to allow specific apps to access the webcam while blocking all others. So now it’s a bit of a blunt instrument.
- Block website tracking: This is a shortcut to the browser extension’s anti-tracking feature, called Website Tracking. So you can (de-)activate it from both the antivirus software and the browser extension.
There is also a link to Kaspersky’s VPN, called Secure Connection, based on Hotspot Shield‘s technology (just like Bitdefender’s and Panda’s VPN). It’s a fast, secure (no leaks), and private (no logs) VPN that works with Netflix and allows you to download via torrents clients like BitTorrent.
To access the unlimited VPN, buy Kaspersky Plus or Premium.
Safe Kids are the parental controls by Kaspersky, which are housed in a separate app. With your subscription, you’ll get a basic version of Safe Kids, allowing you to protect your kids online by blocking specific websites and website categories.
You will have to buy the premium version for the complete feature set. This one adds a GPS tracker, social media monitor, and low-battery notifier.
Some of the features mentioned above can be customized under preferences. For instance, you can choose which type of tracking cookies to block: Web analytics, ad agencies, web behavior trackers, and social networks.
Here you can also find Kaspersky’s firewall, called Network Attack Blocker. It is not a full-feature firewall like Norton and Intego offer, but it offers similar protection. For instance, it scans incoming traffic for attacks. When it discovers any, it will block the data stream from that source for an hour.
Is Kaspersky the best internet security for Mac?
Kaspersky is one of the best security suites for Mac.
It offers excellent anti-malware protection and a range of web protection features. We especially like the customizable browser extension.
If you want to access the full range of features, including a password manager and unlimited VPN, get the Plus or Premium plan.
You can try Kaspersky risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Ranked #4 of 28 Antivirus for Mac
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is an affordable but basic solution for Mac. It lacks a firewall, password manager, and a lot more.
- Malware protection: 100%. Bitdefender averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 protection tests for Mac. It is excellent at removing malware. In contrast to other brands, it participated in 9 of the last 10 tests.
- Speed impact: 83%. Bitdefender averaged 5.83 out of 6 in the last 10 performance tests for Mac. It has a small impact on the speed of your Mac. The data is reliable, because it took part in 9 of the last 10 tests.
- Features: 50%. It has anti-malware, anti-phishing, and anti-tracking. But it lacks a firewall, and the VPN and password manager cost extra.
- Price: 85%. If you want straightforward anti-malware protection, Bitdefender is a great and affordable solution. But it lacks features.
Discount: Save 50% at Bitdefender
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac Review
Bitdefender only comes in one straightforward package for Mac:
- Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac starts at € 20 (Europe) or $ 20 (USA). It offers antivirus, anti-phishing, anti-tracking, and a VPN with a data limit of 200 MB / day. The unlimited VPN costs extra. It protects 1 to 3 Macs.
Below we’ll explain each feature:
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac looks just as cool as its brother on Windows. On the left side, you can find a menu with seven items that house the features and settings. We’ll walk you through them from top to bottom:
The first menu item, Dashboard, offers short-cuts to five core features:
- Quick scan
- System scan
- Protect a new device
- Safe files
- Web protection
The second menu item, Protection, covers the security features:
- Quick Scan: Quickly scan areas of your Mac that are sensitive to malware.
- System Scan: Run a complete scan of all files and directories of your Mac.
- Custom Scan: Pick specific files to scan.
- Quarantine: See a list of possibly dangerous files. Delete or remove them.
- Exceptions: Create a list of files that can be excluded from scanning.
- TrafficLight: A browser extension for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, that stops you from entering phishing sites and downloading malware.
- Safe Files: A ransomware protection feature stops malware from making unauthorized changes to your files.
- Time Machine Protection: Protect Apple’s built-in backup feature, the Time Machine, from unauthorized changes.
The third menu item, Privacy, covers the privacy features:
- VPN: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) restores your privacy online. Bitdefender’s VPN is fast, private, secure, and works with Netflix and torrents. It’s excellent. However, the free version is limited to 200 MB/day.
- Anti-Tracker: A browser extension that blocks tracking cookies in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.
The fourth menu item, Notifications, gives you a chronological overview of everything security-related that occurred on your Macbook.
In the fifth menu item, My Account, you can see account information and the remaining duration of your subscription. It also includes a link to Bitdefender Central, where you can manage your account.
In the sixth menu item, Preferences, you can (de-)activate various features, such as Bitdefender Shield. You can also choose what files should be scanned. For instance, you can exclude backups or decide only to scan modified files, to speed up your scanning.
Is Bitdefender the best Mac antivirus software?
Perhaps. Bitdefender has impressive anti-malware protection for Mac. But it certainly isn’t the best Mac internet security software. It simply misses too essential features, like a firewall, password manager, VPN, and data breach monitoring.
Although we are impressed by Bitdefender’s excellent VPN, the free version is limited to 200 MB/day, making it useless. And yes, Bitdefender’s test scores are impressive, but Norton’s are even better.
Therefore, Norton AV Plus remains the best antivirus software for Mac and Norton 360 the best internet security suite for Mac.
You can try Bitdefender risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Below, we compare the following products:
- Norton 360 Deluxe
- Intego Mac Security And Performance
- Kaspersky Plus
- Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
These are the mid-range products at each brand.
Test score comparison
We’ve compared the 10 most recent test scores for Mac of the antivirus brands that frequently partake in these trials. The tests were performed by AV-Test, the German anti-malware test lab. They use three factors:
- Protection (1-6): Antivirus protection against malware attacks.
- Performance (1-6): System slowdown caused by the antivirus.
- Usability (1-6): Frequency of false alarms and disruptions.
We used their results, and this formula, to calculate the final score:
Final Score = 60% Protection + 20% Performance + 20% Usability.
Two important notes:
- Brands not listed in the table haven’t participated in the analysis by AV-Test. Avoid these brands, because we simply do not know if they are good at their job.
- Not all brands participate frequently in the tests. Look into the last column to see how often the brands have participated in the last 10 tests.
Although most brands have decent scores, Norton is the clear winner.
We’ve compared the user reviews of all antivirus brands. We’ve used the scores and review count of TrustPilot, a leading user review platform. However, take these results with a grain of salt, as some brands actively attempt to increase their ratings.
Personally, we are wary of exceptionally high scores. Especially those by brands such as TotalAV, known for aggressive marketing and sales tactics.
We consider scores between 4.0 and 4.5 good and realistic. Higher scores are dubious, and lower scores indicate that the brand might have a poor product or customer service. McAfee’s scores, for instance, are worrying.
Internet security for Mac buying guide
Below we cover a range of topics:
- What is internet security software?
- How does internet security software work?
- Does macOS need internet security software?
- What are the built-in security features of macOS?
- How do we test internet security software for Mac?
- How to choose the best internet security software for Mac?
- What cyber threats can internet security protect you from?
- What cyber threat can internet security not protect you from?
- What internet security software have we tested?
Clicks the links to be taken to the one of your choice:
What is internet security software?
Internet security software is a specialized suite of programs designed to safeguard your computing devices and data from digital threats. These threats can range from viruses and worms to ransomware, spyware, and phishing attacks.
The software provides a multifaceted defense line that secures your devices when you’re browsing the internet, downloading files, or engaging in online activities. It offers a combination of features that can include antivirus, anti-spyware, firewall, anti-phishing, and even parental controls.
For more, read our blog post on what internet security software is.
How does internet security software work?
Internet security software operates using several methodologies to identify, isolate, and remove threats. These are generally categorized into signature-based detection, heuristic analysis, and behavior-based detection.
Signature-based detection is one of the primary ways internet security software identifies known threats. Every piece of malware has a unique code, known as a signature. Security companies maintain vast databases of these signatures, which the software uses to compare against files on your system. If a match is found, the software alerts you and often moves the file to a secure quarantine for further examination or deletion.
However, with new threats emerging daily, relying solely on signature-based detection isn’t enough. This is where heuristic analysis comes in. Heuristics are algorithms that can detect previously unknown malware or variations of known malware by looking for common malicious code patterns or behaviors. It’s like a detective making an educated guess about a suspect based on specific behaviors that align with known criminals. This method enables the detection of new threats even before their signatures are added to databases.
Behavior-based detection complements the other two methodologies. This approach monitors the behavior of applications and processes on your system in real-time. If a program starts acting suspiciously — for instance, attempting to modify system files or connect to a known malicious server — the behavior-based detection system flags it as potentially harmful. This method allows for the detection of zero-day threats and advanced persistent threats that might evade other forms of detection.
Together, these mechanisms equip internet security software with a robust, layered defense against a vast array of cyber threats, protecting both your device and data.
For more, read our blog post on how antivirus software works.
Does macOS need internet security software?
The answer to whether macOS needs internet security software is a resounding yes. While Apple’s macOS has an impressive reputation for robust security and resilience against cyber threats, it is not invulnerable. Mac’s built-in security features, such as XProtect and Gatekeeper, do a commendable job, but they are not designed to combat the myriad of sophisticated threats prevalent in today’s digital landscape.
Firstly, the growing popularity of Mac devices has made them an increasingly attractive target for cybercriminals. In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks specifically designed to exploit Mac systems. For instance, the Silver Sparrow malware detected in early 2021 targeted nearly 30,000 Macs with a potentially destructive payload.
Secondly, the online activities that expose Windows users to threats – visiting compromised websites, downloading unverified software, clicking on suspicious links – are just as risky on a Mac. Mac users, like all internet users, are susceptible to socially engineered attacks that trick them into voluntarily compromising their security.
Finally, a robust internet security solution offers additional benefits beyond just malware protection, such as safe browsing, firewall protection, anti-phishing measures, and parental controls. These comprehensive solutions can augment the Mac’s in-built defenses to provide an all-around safer online experience.
So, while Macs are generally secure, they are not impervious to all threats. An internet security software is an essential tool for bolstering your Mac’s defenses, safeguarding your personal information, and ensuring your digital well-being.
For more, read our blog post on whether macOS needs antivirus.
What are the built-in security features of macOS?
macOS is renowned for its robust, built-in security features designed to protect your Mac right out of the box. These layered protections work together to keep your Mac safe from various types of threats, and they include:
XProtect: XProtect is macOS’s built-in antivirus software. It uses signature-based detection to identify known malware threats. XProtect operates silently in the background, checking every application you run against its database of known malware signatures. If it finds a match, it blocks the application from opening and alerts you.
Gatekeeper: This security feature controls what apps can be installed and run on your Mac. By default, Gatekeeper allows only apps downloaded from the App Store and identified developers. It also checks apps for known malware when you install them and blocks anything suspicious. Gatekeeper can help prevent malware from infecting your Mac.
Sandboxing: Apple uses sandboxing to restrict what actions apps can perform on your Mac. Each app is confined to its own ‘sandbox’ and can’t interact with other apps or system areas without permission. This approach isolates potential damage and protects your Mac from rogue apps.
FileVault 2: FileVault 2 is macOS’s encryption feature. When enabled, it encrypts the entire startup disk on your Mac, which means your data is automatically secure from unauthorized access. Even if your Mac falls into the wrong hands, the data will remain inaccessible without the encryption key.
System Integrity Protection (SIP): SIP is a security feature that restricts the root user’s access to certain protected parts of the Mac operating system, even when the user has administrative privileges. This makes it more challenging for malware to modify or corrupt system files.
Firewall: macOS comes with a built-in firewall which, when enabled, provides an additional layer of protection against inbound network attacks.
Anti-phishing: Safari, Apple’s built-in web browser, has an anti-phishing feature that warns users when they visit suspicious or dangerous websites.
While these features provide robust security, they are not all-encompassing. As discussed earlier, an additional internet security software can supplement these features to guard against evolving cyber threats.
For more, read our blog post on whether macOS needs antivirus.
How do we test internet security software for Mac?
Testing internet security software requires a meticulous approach to ensure comprehensive coverage of its features and effectiveness. Our testing protocol is divided into six crucial elements, each with different weightage:
- Anti-malware protection (30%)
- Security and privacy features (30%)
- Speed impact (10%)
- False positives (10%)
- Price (10%)
- Ownership and reputation (10%)
Anti-malware protection (30%)
The foremost element, anti-malware protection, is evaluated using a two-pronged approach: in-house testing and analysis of AV-Test results.
Our rigorous in-house testing involves subjecting our test PC to hundreds of diverse malware samples via USB. We then evaluate whether the antivirus software’s scanner can identify and neutralize these threats effectively. Our malware samples include a range of malicious software types from common viruses to sophisticated ransomware.
In a separate test, we simulate real-world malware attacks. This simulation involves executing malware files and initiating ransomware attacks to see if the software’s real-time protection can halt these incursions. By mimicking actual cyber threats, we evaluate the software’s real-time responsiveness and effectiveness against diverse threats.
Apart from our intensive in-house tests, we also scrutinize results from the renowned independent testing organization, AV-Test. This analysis enables us to gauge the software’s performance against a wider array of threats, across different operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Android. AV-Test’s comprehensive testing methodologies provide valuable insights into the software’s ability to detect and neutralize both known and zero-day malware.
This two-tiered approach ensures an exhaustive evaluation of the antivirus software’s anti-malware capabilities, forming a crucial part of our testing process.
Security and privacy features (30%)
A comprehensive internet security software should be equipped with a variety of security and privacy features to protect against a wide array of online threats. We assess each feature for its effectiveness and usability, making up 30% of the overall score.
Web protection (anti-phishing)
Web protection, particularly anti-phishing capabilities, protect against fraudulent websites that mimic legitimate ones to steal sensitive information. We test this feature by trying to access known phishing sites. The software should effectively block these sites and warn us of the potential danger.
A firewall serves as a first line of defense, controlling the network traffic to and from your device. We simulate inbound attacks to test the strength of the firewall and its ability to block unauthorized access while allowing safe connections.
A password manager stores and encrypts your passwords, making it easier to maintain strong, unique passwords for each account. We assess its ease of use, how effectively it auto-fills credentials, and the strength of its encryption.
Virtual private network (VPN)
A VPN provides a secure connection for online activities, shielding your browsing activities from prying eyes. We test VPNs for speed, server availability, and whether they successfully mask the IP address.
Parental controls allow the management of internet access and restrictions on content for children. We evaluate the flexibility and ease of configuration of these settings, and how effectively they block inappropriate content.
Identity theft protection
Identity theft protection should alert you to any unauthorized use of your personal information. We assess this by monitoring whether the software accurately detects and alerts us of any personal information appearing in places it shouldn’t be.
Secure cloud storage (cloud backup)
Cloud backup provides an offsite backup for your data, which is critical for recovery in case of ransomware attacks or hardware failures. We assess the ease of use, backup speed, and the security of the data transfer and storage.
Anti-ransomware capabilities should prevent ransomware from encrypting your files. We simulate ransomware attacks and evaluate the software’s effectiveness in blocking them and preventing file encryption.
Dark web monitoring
Dark web monitoring alerts you if your personal information is found on the dark web. We test this feature by checking the accuracy and speed of alerts when our test data appears on the dark web.
By thoroughly testing each of these features, we can provide a comprehensive assessment of the overall security and privacy capabilities of the internet security software.
An antivirus program can come with various entry-level functions, such as spam filters and secure browsers, and premium options like online storage with enhanced security. We consider the following bonus features worthy of your consideration:
- Ad Blocker
- Email protection
- File encryption
- File shredder
- Gaming mode
- Microphone protection
- PC maintenance features
- Secure browser (hardened browser to protect your online banking)
- Spam filter
- Startup optimizer
- Tune up tools
- Virtual keyboard
- Webcam protection
Speed impact (10%)
One critical aspect of testing internet security software is assessing the speed impact on the system. Performance impact refers to the degree to which the security software slows down the system during typical user activities like launching websites, downloading software, installing and running applications, and copying files.
We utilize the performance test results from AV-Test to guide our analysis. These tests evaluate the software’s impact on system speed and resource usage during both idle and active states. A good internet security software should provide robust protection without significantly affecting the system’s performance.
False positives (10%)
False positives occur when the security software mistakenly flags a harmless file or action as a threat. Frequent false positives can lead to user frustration and potentially the disabling of security measures.
Again, we use AV-Test’s usability tests to guide our analysis. These tests evaluate the software’s capability to distinguish between benign and malicious software, thereby measuring the frequency of false positives during system scans and normal usage. An effective software should have a low rate of false positive detections.
Pricing plays a significant role in the evaluation of internet security software. We focus on value for money, considering the breadth and quality of features offered relative to the software’s cost. It’s important to note that there can be significant price differences between the first and second years of subscription.
Often, introductory prices are attractive, but the renewal cost can be considerably higher. We take both these factors into account to assess the long-term affordability of the software.
Ownership and reputation (10%)
The reputation and business practices of the company behind the internet security software can have serious implications on user trust and data privacy.
Not all companies are created equal in this regard. For instance, Avast faced criticism when it was revealed that they had been selling user data via a subsidiary called Jumpshot.
Such incidents can lead to serious reputational damage and loss of trust among users. We assess the company’s track record, its privacy policies, and any controversies to provide a balanced view of the software’s trustworthiness.
For more, read our blog post on how we test antivirus software.
How to choose the best internet security software for Mac?
Selecting the best internet security software for your Mac involves considering multiple aspects. Every user has unique needs, and the ideal software should cater to those needs while offering comprehensive protection. Here are several key factors to consider when making your choice:
Reliable protection from malware
At its core, a good internet security software should offer robust protection against a wide range of malware, including viruses, ransomware, spyware, and more. Look for software that has a proven track record of detecting and neutralizing threats, both common and emerging. Pay attention to independent testing results, such as those from AV-Test, to gauge the software’s reliability in real-world scenarios.
Cyber threats evolve rapidly, and your chosen software should keep pace. Regular security updates are crucial to ensure the software can effectively protect against the latest threats. Ensure the provider maintains a consistent update schedule and has a reputation for swiftly addressing new security vulnerabilities.
As we mentioned before, your internet security software should protect your Mac without significantly affecting its performance. Check performance test results and user reviews to ensure the software won’t slow down your system during regular use or scans.
While antivirus software is necessary for secure computing, it shouldn’t significantly slow down your device or hinder its performance. Seek out software with a minimal system impact to ensure that your device continues to run smoothly even when scans are being performed.
Good customer support can be a lifesaver when you encounter issues or need assistance. Look for providers that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, or phone support. Quick response times and helpful, knowledgeable support staff are also key indicators of excellent customer service.
First-year and second price
Price is an essential factor to consider, and it’s not just about the upfront cost. Some providers offer enticing first-year prices, but the renewal price can be significantly higher. Ensure the software offers value for money, considering both the range of features offered and the long-term cost.
By considering these elements, you can select an internet security software for Mac that offers comprehensive protection, fits your budget, and meets your specific needs.
If you have a specific operating system that you would like to protect, we probably have a dedicated antivirus comparison for it:
- The best antivirus of 2023 – For all OS.
- The best antivirus for Windows 11 – For Microsoft’s latest desktop OS.
- The best antivirus for macOS – For Apple’s desktop OS.
- The best antivirus for Android – For Google’s mobile OS.
- The best antivirus for iPhone – For Apple’s mobile OS.
- The best antivirus with a VPN – For both security and privacy.
- The best VPN providers – For a dedicated privacy solution.
Click the links to be taken to your comparison of choice.
What cyber threats can internet security protect you from?
Internet security software plays a vital role in protecting users from a wide range of cyber threats. Although no solution is entirely foolproof, a comprehensive security suite can mitigate the risk from most common and emerging threats. Let’s delve into the details of these threats:
Malware, or malicious software, is an umbrella term for a variety of harmful software types, including viruses, worms, and Trojans. Malware can wreak havoc on a system, from stealing sensitive information to causing system failures. Quality internet security software can detect and neutralize these threats.
Adware is a form of software that generates revenue for its developer by automatically displaying unwanted advertisements to the user. While not always harmful, adware can be annoying and intrusive. Some adware also tracks user activities, breaching privacy. Internet security software often includes features to block and remove adware.
Botnets are networks of computers infected with malware and controlled without the owners’ knowledge. These networks can be used for various malicious activities like spamming, launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, or spreading malware. Internet security software can prevent your computer from becoming part of a botnet.
Keyloggers are a type of spyware that record a user’s keystrokes. They are often used to steal sensitive information such as login credentials or credit card numbers. Internet security software can detect and neutralize keyloggers, protecting your personal information.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user’s files and demands a ransom to unlock them. It poses a significant threat to personal and business data alike. Quality internet security software should have strong anti-ransomware capabilities, detecting and stopping ransomware before it can encrypt files.
Rootkits are a set of software tools that enable an unauthorized user to take control of a computer system without detection. They can be particularly challenging to discover and remove. Effective internet security software can detect the presence of rootkits and remove them, protecting the integrity of the system.
Spyware is software that secretly monitors and collects personal and sensitive information. This information can be used for identity theft, fraud, or targeted advertising. Internet security software should include anti-spyware capabilities, protecting your privacy and personal data.
Trojans are malicious programs that disguise themselves as legitimate software. They can provide a backdoor for cybercriminals to access and control your system. Comprehensive internet security software will effectively detect and remove Trojans.
Viruses are a type of malicious software that can replicate themselves and spread to other computers or files, often causing damage or disruption. Quality internet security software provides robust virus detection and removal capabilities.
Worms are self-replicating malware that spread across networks without human interaction, often causing significant damage and disruption. Good internet security software can detect and remove worms, preventing their spread.
By understanding these threats and ensuring your internet security software is equipped to deal with them, you can substantially enhance your digital security and resilience.
What cyber threat can internet security not protect you from?
Despite their robust and comprehensive protection, internet security software does have its limitations. There are certain types of threats that can bypass even the most stringent digital defenses, mainly because they exploit human vulnerabilities rather than software ones. Here are several threats that your internet security software may not fully protect you from:
Phishing involves the use of deceptive emails or websites designed to trick you into revealing sensitive information, like your login credentials or credit card numbers. Internet security software can sometimes detect and block known phishing sites, but new or sophisticated attacks can slip through. The best defense against phishing is user awareness and caution.
Online scams can take many forms, from fraudulent sales to false job offers. While some internet security software can block known fraudulent sites, they can’t always catch all scams, especially those conducted via email or social media. Again, your vigilance and skepticism are your best defenses.
For more, read our blog post on online scams.
Social engineering exploits human psychology to trick users into revealing confidential information or performing actions that compromise security. Techniques can range from impersonating a trusted individual or organization to preying on human kindness, greed, or curiosity. Internet security software cannot protect you from these tactics. The best protection is to be aware of such tactics and to verify requests for information or action independently.
For more, read our blog post on social engineering.
Zero-day exploits are attacks on software vulnerabilities unknown to the software developers at the time of the attack – the developers have had “zero days” to address the issue. Even the best internet security software can’t always protect against these unknown vulnerabilities. However, regularly updating your software can minimize your exposure as updates often include fixes for known vulnerabilities.
In essence, while internet security software is crucial for protection against many threats, it’s not a silver bullet. Remaining vigilant and adopting safe online behaviors are equally important aspects of your digital security strategy.
For more, read our blog post on zero-day exploits.
What internet security software have we tested?
We have tested 28 antivirus brands, ranging from entry-level free antivirus programs, to mid-range paid antivirus software and full-featured internet security suites. Below is the list of the 20 most important brands:
- Bitdefender Antivirus
- McAfee Antivirus
- Microsoft Defender (Windows Defender)
- Norton Antivirus
- PC Matic
- Trend Micro
The best antivirus programs are Norton 360 Deluxe, Norton 360 Advanced, and Bitdefender Total Security. By comparison, the other antivirus software cost too much, offer less capable protection from malware threats, or have no unlimited VPN access.
Two noteworthy mentions are Trend Micro Antivirus, which like Norton has excellent protection scores, and Avira Free Antivirus, which is the best free antivirus for Mac.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions.
What is the best internet security software for Mac?
Do you need internet security software for Mac?
Absolutely. While Macs have built-in security, additional internet security software boosts protection against advanced threats.
How does internet security software work?
Internet security software works by continuously scanning your system for threats, using techniques like signature-based detection, heuristic analysis, and behavior-based detection.
Will internet security software slow down your Mac?
Premium internet security software, like Norton and Intego, minimizes impact on system speed. However, less advanced solutions may slow down your Mac.
Is a free internet security software for Mac safe?
Generally, free internet security software isn’t as safe or comprehensive as paid options. It may lack essential features or compromise your privacy.
Is Kaspersky still safe?
Despite its Russian origins, Kaspersky hasn’t been proven unsafe. Its software continues to offer robust protection against a multitude of cyber threats.
Languages and sources
Similar pages in other languages on SoftwareLab.org:
Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to test the antivirus software:
- Apple Platform Security
- AV-Comparatives Consumer
- AV-Test Android
- AV-Test macOS
- AV-Test Windows
- GRC Firewall Test
- Microsoft Defender
- SpeedTest VPN
- Trustpilot Security Software
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
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