HOW TO: Do Macs Need Anti-Virus Protection? - MYXANTS -->

HOW TO: Do Macs Need Anti-Virus Protection?

Is anti-virus protection required by Mac? Ransomeware and adware are on the rise and your Mac may be the next target. Time to add an anti-virus system?

Question: Do I need an anti-virus program for my Mac?
HOW TO: Do Macs Need Anti-Virus Protection?

I've read that Macs are immune to viruses and other bad things that are common in the Windows world, but my Windows friends say I should run anti-virus programs on my Mac. Are they right, or can I be together without one?


Mac is immune to viruses, Trojans, backdoors, adware, spyware, ransomware, and other malware. The main difference between Mac and Windows is that no viruses written for OS X have been shown in the wild, that is, outside of security research organizations. That's not to say it's impossible to create a virus that can cause Macs; it's just harder than Windows, due to the nature of OS X and its security model.

The trick that many Mac users fall into is the belief that since there is currently no known virus targeting Mac, it is safe to attack. In fact, Mac OS, including applications, and third-party applications have and will continue to have security issues that may allow for some form of attack; it's just that the attack is not possible from the virus. But if something deletes your data, gains access to your personal information, prevents the use of your Mac holding hostages, or manipulates websites to generate ad revenue, you may not care whether the virus, web site attacks, or horses Trojan you are allowed to install; However, your Mac is still infected with malicious malware or adware.

Using the Anti-Virus Application on your Mac

Which brings us back to your original question, about using anti-virus programs on your Mac. The answer is probably; it really depends on how and where you use your Mac. Let's start with why you should use anti-virus programs.

I use the generic term anti-virus to cover various malware that can be targeted to your Mac. In fact viruses maybe your least concern, but anti-virus names are the most commonly used term to describe these anti-malware applications.

Anti-virus programs not only protect against known viruses; they also include anti-phishing, anti-adware, anti-spyware, anti-ransomware and other tools that can keep your Mac from snooping as you browse the web, open email attachments, or download applications, extensions, and other items can be a carrier of malware.

Do you think right now that using a Mac security application sounds like a good idea? The downside is that many Mac security applications available are historically poor manufacturers. They may be nothing more than poorly-released Windows security applications that have a long list of Windows-based malware that they can protect you from, but few, if any, Mac malware in their database.

There are also performance penalty issues, especially with security applications running in the background, and taking a lot of your Mac resources to operate.

However, there are several good reasons to use Windows-based security applications on them. They can help protect friends using your Windows in an office or home environment that uses a mixed computing platform. This is especially important if you share files and emails with others on the network.

While it is unlikely that another virus or malware will successfully invade your Mac, it's a good idea that you will not forward spam-infected emails or Excel spreadsheets to Windows using colleagues who may not have anti-virus software on their computers. It's better to prepare for an attack than to try to clean up after one. (It's also wise not to isolate your co-workers.)

Why You Don't Need to Use the Anti-Virus Application on your Mac

I've been asked if I'm using any Mac security applications, and while I can tell you that I've tested many such applications, I'm not using any of those active components; that is, they would not walk in the background and scan my every move to see if I was infected.

I've occasionally used apps like EtreCheck, which is a diagnostic tool to find out what caused Macs to act weird. It can't remove malware or adware, but it can help you find out if anyone is present.

Another app I use is AdwareMedic, which was recently purchased by Malwarebytes, and is now known as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac. AdwareMedic is now the only anti-malware application I recommend for Mac. It focuses on malware by scanning your Mac for signature files left behind by malware installation. AdwareMedic has no active components, that is, it does not scan your Mac in the background. Instead, you run this app whenever you think you may have a malware problem.

So why do I recommend a passive anti-malware application, not an active malware detection system? Because right now, adware is the most likely type of malware you will find. Using an active scanning malware application just doesn't make sense to me, especially when you consider the performance penalties, as well as the poor history of how these security apps interact with the Mac, causing stability issues or preventing some applications from functioning properly.

Be Safety Awareness

Being aware of security may be the best defense against any threats that may arise to target Macs. This does not mean uploading your Mac with security applications, but rather understanding the types of actions that put your Mac at risk. Avoiding this type of risky behavior may be the best defense against malware.

Lastly, you should be aware that malware threats to any computing platform, including Macs, can change dynamically from day today. So while I don't see any anti-malware applications enabled on my Mac today, tomorrow may be another story.

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