Do Macs Need Antivirus? How to Stay Safe (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

Do Macs Need Antivirus

Do Macs Need Antivirus?

As a Mac user, you might be under the impression that your beloved device is immune to the perils of viruses and malware. After all, that’s one of the major selling points for Macs, right? Well, not so fast!

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of Mac security, explore the types of malware targeting Apple devices, and provide you with tips and recommendations to fortify your digital fortress.

Summary

  • Macs need antivirus protection to stay safe from malware and other cyber threats. Norton and Intego are the best antivirus for Mac.
  • Paid antivirus software offers more comprehensive protection and features than free options, which are often basic malware scanners.
  • To stay safe, regularly update macOS, use strong passwords and two factor authentication, and be wary of phishing scams.

Don’t become a victim of cybercrime. Protect your devices with the best antivirus software and your privacy with the best VPN service.

Do Macs Need Antivirus Software?

While it’s true that Macs come with built-in antivirus software like XProtect and Apple’s Malware Removal Tool, the decision to install additional antivirus software depends on the device and macOS version you’re using.

The reality is that the threat landscape is becoming increasingly complex, with more sophisticated malware targeting Mac users, such as adware, ransomware, spyware, and phishing attacks. This means that relying solely on built-in security features may not be enough to combat these threats.

The good news is that Apple devices are generally more secure than their Windows counterparts, thanks to their Unix-based software and built-in security measures managed through system preferences. However, as a Mac user, you shouldn’t become complacent – staying proactive in your approach to security is critical.

So let’s explore the built-in security features of macOS and the growing threat landscape to understand why it’s essential to consider third-party antivirus software for your Mac.

Built-in Security Features

Macs come with various built-in security measures, such as XProtect, Gatekeeper, FileVault 2, app sandboxing, and Safari’s anti-phishing technology, all designed to protect your device from harmful intruders. XProtect is Mac’s silent guardian, working in the background to detect and block known malware by comparing downloaded applications, including those from the Mac App Store, against a list of known malicious applications, which is regularly updated by Apple.

Gatekeeper, on the other hand, acts as the bouncer of macOS, preventing the downloading of software that hasn’t been digitally signed and checking for malware every time you run the software, not just during the initial installation. Coupled with other security features like FileVault 2, which encrypts user data for added protection, app sandboxing to isolate apps from critical system components, and the Mac Malware Removal Tool for regular system scans, it’s clear that Apple has made security a priority for its users.

The Growing Threat Landscape

Despite Apple’s efforts to keep Macs secure, new malware types and families have emerged within the Apple ecosystem, posing a significant risk to Mac users. In fact, there has been a staggering 1,000 percent increase in malicious programs targeting Mac computers in 2020. One such example is Shlayer, a recent threat that can bypass Gatekeeper and sneak onto Macs, causing havoc for unsuspecting users.

These sobering statistics highlight the importance of staying informed about the latest malware trends and ensuring that your Mac is adequately protected. By combining Apple’s built-in security features with reliable third-party antivirus software, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling prey to these ever-growing threats.

Types of Malware Targeting Macs

Now that we’ve established the importance of antivirus software for Macs, let’s delve deeper into the various forms of malware that can wreak havoc on Apple devices. From adware and trojan horses to ransomware and info-stealing malware like Atomic macOS Stealer (AMOS), Mac users face a plethora of threats that can compromise their devices and personal data.

It’s crucial to understand these threats to protect your Mac from potential harm adequately. In the following subsections, we’ll discuss adware, potentially unwanted programs, ransomware, cryptocurrency miners, spyware, phishing attacks, and trojan horses in more detail to help you stay one step ahead of these digital villains.

Adware and Potentially Unwanted Programs

Adware is a type of malicious software designed to display unwanted ads on your computer, while potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) are software programs installed without your knowledge or consent, often used to monitor your activity, display unwanted ads, or even steal your personal information.

To avoid these threats, it’s crucial to research any new programs before installation and stay vigilant when downloading apps from the Mac App Store or other sources. Keep an eye out for programs like Mac Space Reviver, Mac Adware Remover, and Advanced Mac Cleaner, which are known to be unwanted programs on Macs.

Ransomware and Cryptocurrency Miners

Ransomware and cryptocurrency miners are two other forms of malware that can target Mac users. Ransomware is a particularly insidious type of malicious software that encrypts a user’s data and then demands a ransom to decrypt it, causing significant damage to individuals and organizations alike.

Cryptocurrency miners, on the other hand, are programs that hijack your computer’s resources to mine cryptocurrency without your knowledge or consent. Both ransomware and cryptocurrency miners can have severe consequences for Mac users, highlighting the importance of robust antivirus protection to defend against these threats.

Spyware and Phishing Attacks

Spyware and phishing attacks are two more types of malware that can target Mac users. Spyware is a form of malicious software designed to monitor a user’s activity and steal their personal information, often sneaking onto devices through installed software programs, both licensed and unlicensed.

Phishing attacks, meanwhile, attempt to trick users into divulging sensitive information by sending emails or links that appear to be from legitimate sources but are, in fact, malicious.

To protect against these threats, it’s vital to be cautious when clicking on links or opening emails from unknown sources and to use strong passwords and two-factor authentication to secure your online accounts.

Choosing the Best Antivirus Software for Macs

With a myriad of antivirus software options available, choosing the best one for your Mac can be a daunting task. While free antivirus software may provide basic protection, paid antivirus software offers more comprehensive and robust protection, making it the recommended choice for Mac users.

In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits of paid antivirus software and provide you with our top two recommendations for the best antivirus protection for your Mac: Norton and Intego. Both options provide powerful security features and have proven track records in defending against Mac-specific threats.

Free vs. Paid Antivirus Software

While free antivirus software may be tempting, it typically only provides basic protection against malware and a few additional features. On the other hand, paid antivirus software offers all the features of the free version, plus extra functionalities that can help keep your Mac safe from a broader range of threats. In this context, it’s important to consider the benefits of antivirus programs when making a decision to install antivirus software.

In the long run, investing in paid antivirus software can provide peace of mind and more comprehensive protection for your Mac. Given the increasing prevalence of Mac-targeted threats, it’s essential to prioritize security and opt for a reliable, feature-rich antivirus solution.

Norton – The Best Antivirus for Mac

Norton 360. Deluxe takes the crown as the best antivirus for Macs, offering comprehensive security features, including a two-way firewall, password manager, and cloud backup, as well as impressive malware detection rates. Norton’s advanced technologies, such as machine learning and heuristics, allow it to detect and block malicious software effectively, keeping your Mac safe from a wide array of threats.

With its robust security suite and proven track record, Norton 360 Deluxe is an excellent choice for Mac users seeking top-notch protection against malware, ransomware, and phishing scams.

Intego – The Second Best Antivirus for Mac

Intego Mac Internet Security is another excellent option for Mac antivirus protection, providing real-time malware protection, a personal firewall, and other useful features like Mac cleanup tools and parental controls. Highly rated for its comprehensive security suite specifically designed for Mac computers, Intego offers robust protection against a wide range of threats targeting Apple devices.

While Norton may be our top choice, Intego is a close second, making it an excellent alternative for those seeking reliable antivirus protection for their Mac.

Keeping Your Mac Safe: Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered the types of malware targeting Macs and the best antivirus software options, it’s crucial to discuss best practices for keeping your Mac secure. By regularly updating macOS, avoiding suspicious emails and links, and using strong passwords and two-factor authentication, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to security threats.

In the following subsections, we’ll delve into these best practices in more detail, providing you with actionable tips to ensure your Mac remains safe and secure.

Regularly Update macOS

Keeping macOS up-to-date is vital in protecting your Mac from security threats. Apple releases updates to the operating system that address security vulnerabilities and help defend against both existing and emerging threats. By installing these updates as soon as they become available, you can help protect your Mac from potential harm.

To stay on top of updates, consider enabling automatic software updates in your system preferences or manually checking for updates periodically. Remember to restart your computer after installation to ensure that the updates take effect.

Beware of Phishing and Social Engineering

Phishing and social engineering attacks are prevalent and can have severe consequences if you fall victim to them. To avoid these threats, be cautious when clicking on links or opening emails from unknown sources, and never provide personal information in response to unsolicited requests.

Additionally, familiarize yourself with common phishing tactics, such as emails claiming to be from reputable companies or government agencies, and be wary of any communication that seems too good to be true or creates a sense of urgency. By staying alert and exercising caution, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling for these scams.

Use Strong Passwords and Two-Factor Authentication

Using strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts is essential for keeping your information secure. Weak passwords can be easily guessed or cracked, leaving your accounts and data vulnerable to hackers. Moreover, enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of identification, such as a code sent to your phone or email address, to verify your identity.

By combining strong passwords with 2FA, you can significantly improve the security of your online accounts, making it much more challenging for attackers to gain access to your personal information.

How Apple Responds to Security Threats

Apple takes security threats seriously and employs a dedicated security research team to identify and address vulnerabilities. Through their generous incentive program, Apple rewards researchers who report vulnerabilities, offering up to $200,000 for discovering vulnerabilities in Apple’s secure boot firmware components.

This proactive approach to security helps Apple stay ahead of emerging threats and maintain the reputation of Macs as secure, reliable devices. By continuously investing in research and development, Apple strives to protect its users and maintain a high level of trust in its products.

Privacy Concerns with Antivirus Software

When it comes to antivirus software, privacy concerns may arise regarding data collection, tracking, and sharing. To address these concerns, it’s essential to read the privacy policy of the antivirus software you choose and understand how your data is collected, used, and shared.

In many cases, you can opt out of data collection or take additional steps to protect your privacy, such as using anti-tracking technology to prevent advertisers from tracking your online activity. By staying informed and proactive about your privacy, you can enjoy the benefits of antivirus protection without compromising your personal information.

Summary

In conclusion, Macs are not immune to viruses and malware, and while Apple provides built-in safeguards, the need for antivirus software depends on the device and macOS being used. The threat landscape is growing, with more sophisticated malware targeting Macs, so users should consider installing a third-party antivirus, such as our top recommendations, Norton and Intego.

By combining built-in security features with reliable antivirus software and following best practices like regular updates, avoiding phishing attacks, and using strong passwords and two-factor authentication, you can significantly reduce the risk of security threats and keep your Mac safe and secure. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay protected.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

Do you need virus protection on an Apple Mac?

Yes, you should have virus protection on your Apple Mac. Even though Apple products are considered secure, it’s still important to make sure your system is protected with an antivirus program to keep your computer and data safe from malware and other cyber threats.

Protect yourself and your device by installing antivirus software on your Mac today.

Do Macs get viruses easily?

Yes, Macs can get viruses and other forms of malware. Despite the built-in security features of macOS, Mac viruses can still infect Apple computers. The good news is that it’s still much less likely for a Mac to get infected than a PC, but it’s always important to take precautions and keep your system up to date to make sure your computer stays secure.

Does Apple have a virus scan?

Yes, Apple does have a virus scan. The MacOS includes built-in antivirus technology called XProtect for signature-based detection and removal of malware.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.