Good Mac security goes beyond antivirus | AppleInsider (2023)

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For years, the Mac has been seen as a safer platform than competitors. But, there are still steps you can and should take to keep yourself safe.

So far in 2022, over 34 million samples of new malware have been discovered. But only 2,000 of those samples have targeted macOS, according to AtlasVPN.

Still, Apple has said security in macOS is unacceptable.

Craig Federighi, Apple's chief of software engineering, appeared in court in May 2021 during the Epic Games v. Apple trial. He explained the security features of Apple devices and how the Mac has different security than the iPhone.

Users can download apps from the Mac App Store, a curated storefront where apps are subject to scrutiny from Apple's review team. But software is also available to download from the web, a practice referred to as "sideloading" on the iPhone.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers asked Federighi why the Mac supports multiple sources of apps, a capability that Epic Games would like to see on iOS. These third-party sources of apps are "regularly exploited on the Mac," Federighi said, adding that the level of Mac malware is unacceptable.

Federighi used this as an example of why Apple believes iOS is more secure than macOS. "iOS has established a dramatically higher bar for customer protection," adding, "The Mac is not meeting that bar today."

If used safely, the Mac is still "the safest possible" platform, Federighi continued. That statement should get Mac users to think about their security software and how they use their computers.

(Video) Best Antivirus for MAC 2022 | TOP 5 Macbook antivirus

Layer one: Best security practices

The best ways to prevent a virus infection involves stopping infected emails, routing around infected websites, and downloading software from trusted sources. Basic safety practices combined with a Mac's built-in security features mean that antivirus software isn't needed for most people.

Some of these safety practices are preventative, such as keeping software up to date, and using a DNS service that blocks malicious websites. Others help stop malware that has already been downloaded, such as GateKeeper and XProtect, the antivirus capability that the Mac already has. Finally, some methods go beyond viruses and involve securing online accounts.

Passwords

One way to prevent hackers from stealing online accounts involves using a password manager. Having a different, complex password for each online account drastically reduces the chance of getting hacked.

Apple's iCloud Keychain found on Mac, iPhone, and iPad is an easy way to get started. It automatically suggests a password for each new login and auto-fills it the next time a person logs into an account. It can warn a person if their password was found in a data breach and supports two-factor authentication, another layer of account security.

iCloud Keychain

On the iPhone and iPad, users can find iCloud Keychain by going to Settings > Passwords. Users can find it in System Preferences > Passwords on the Mac.

Users can find further password options in Keychain Access, a built-in app in macOS. Keychain Access is the home for logins synced with iCloud Keychain, Wi-Fi logins, system certificates, and even secure notes.

Emails and usernames

In addition to using a different password for each website, a user may use a different email address or a different username. An experimental shortcut creates passwords and usernames, if having a random jumble of letters and numbers is acceptable for a username.

(Video) The Practical Guide To Mac Security: Part 9, Do You Need Anti-Virus Software?

On the email side, Apple users have a built-in option called Hide My Email. Part of the iCloud+ subscription, it automatically creates a different, unique email address for online accounts.

Email sent to one of these addresses is forwarded to a user's Apple ID. They can be deleted anytime and have randomly-generated names such as [emailprotected]

Users can find Hide My Email on the iPhone and iPad in Settings > Your Profile Name > iCloud. On the Mac, it can be found in System Preferences > Apple ID.

Phishing

Another way to stay safe using email is to avoid clicking on suspicious links and attachments. An attacker sends these malicious emails in a cybercrime campaign known as phishing. Phishing is when people are contacted through email, phone, or text message in which the sender pretends to be a legitimate institution.

For example, the attacker will create a website posing as a bank and craft an email to get the victim to log into the malicious website. Their username and password will be quickly stolen and used or sold by the attacker.

Standard features of phishing emails include "too good to be true" offers, such as saying the victim won a free iPhone. Or, an email attachment will infect the victim's computer with a virus, in which case antivirus software does come in handy.

When someone receives an email they think is suspicious, they should avoid clicking on any URL inside of it or downloading an attachment. If the email is asking the person to click a button within it, they can instead manually type the website into a browser and look for any alert within their account that matches the email.

Software updates

One of the most critical lines of defense against malware is keeping software up to date. Updates to apps and operating systems often contain fixes for security vulnerabilities found in an older software versions.

Apple is improving this experience with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS Ventura, and other new upgrades coming in fall 2022. A feature called Rapid Security Response decouples security patches from software updates so the OS will protect users faster than ever.

Keep software up to date

(Video) Do Macs need antivirus? And other Mac anti-malware tips

For example, in the iOS 16 developer beta, this feature is found in Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates. A toggle called "Install Security Responses & System Files" says that patches for security bugs and system files will be automatically installed.

The user may need to restart their device to complete the installation, but some system files may be installed automatically even if the toggle is turned off.

These are a few ways that Apple users can stay safe online as the first layer of defense, and the second layer of defense can be found within macOS.

Layer two: Security features built into macOS

After security best practices for browsing the web, Apple's Mac operating system is the second layer. It has native security features that protect users from malicious apps, starting with Gatekeeper.

Gatekeeper ensures that only trusted software runs on a Mac. When a user downloads an app, a plug-in, or software installer package, Gatekeeper verifies that it's from an identified developer using Notarization.

Notarization is a process that requires developers of software outside of the Mac App Store to upload their apps to Apple servers. Apple checks it for malware and sends it back to the developer, who must sign the code with their developer ID. Apple introduced Notarization with macOS Mojave.

Controlling the source of app downloads

(Video) Best Antivirus for Mac: Top 5 Great Picks (2022)

By default, macOS checks all installed software for known malware the first time it's opened. Mac users can change the level of control by going to System Preferences > Security & Privacy. Clicking on the General tab shows two options: "Allow apps downloaded from App Store" and "Allow apps downloaded from App Store and identified developers."

The operating system has further security measures even if Gatekeeper isn't at its strictest setting. The Mac has a little-known feature called XProtect, which acts as antivirus. It was released in 2009 in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

In macOS 10.15 or later, XProtect checks for known malicious content when an app is first launched, when an app changes in the file system, and when Apple updates XProtect signatures. Apple says that these signatures that match known malware are updated automatically, independent of system updates.

When XProtect detects known malware inside downloaded software, the software is blocked, the user is notified, and they have the option to move it to the trash. It also removes malware if the signatures have been updated and periodically checks for new infections.

Mac owners can choose to add a third layer of defense to their systems with third-party security tools. This defense can still include antivirus, but there are more options available.

Tools from Objective See are a popular alternative to antivirus, although they can be used in tandem. They're free, open-source apps that complement the Mac's native security.

One tool, OverSight, helps block malware designed to spy on users through their webcam and microphone. OverSight constantly monitors the system and alerts the user when the internal Mac microphone or the built-in webcam is activated.

Lulu firewall from Objective See

Next, Lulu is a firewall that can block unknown outgoing network connections. It's an excellent option to use, and it works with the Mac's built-in firewall found in System Preferences > Security & Privacy. Finally, Objective See has more tools, such as those that block persistent malware and ransomware.

Another way to stay safe on the web is with DNS. The Domain Name Registry, commonly referred to as the internet phone book connects IP addresses with web domains. A service called NextDNS blocks ads and trackers, offers parental network controls, and much more. In addition, it helps protect against malware by blocking websites that host such content.

(Video) Best Antivirus for Mac 2021 - Intego Antivirus Review

These are just some of the security tools available on the web. As a result, Mac owners can take control of their security on all fronts, ensuring their safety even as Apple works to improve security for all its platforms.

FAQs

Do you need antivirus for Mac 2022? ›

In short, yes, you do need antivirus for your Mac. Mac computers are not immune to viruses, and other malware and Mac-targeted attacks are increasingly prevalent. Following best practices for securing your device and using built-in security features can help, but antivirus software can protect your device even further.

Does Mac have good virus protection? ›

Macs come with out-of-the-box antivirus software, XProtect, as well as Apple's Malware Removal Tool. However, these tools only protect against viruses and malware that Apple identifies, which make up a small percentage of the threats internet security companies identify each day.

Does Mac have a built in virus scanner? ›

The technically sophisticated runtime protections in macOS work at the very core of your Mac to keep your system safe from malware. This starts with state-of-the-art antivirus software built in to block and remove malware.

Which is the best antivirus for Mac? ›

The best Mac antivirus software you can get
  • Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac. ...
  • Norton 360 Standard. ...
  • Avast Security for Mac. ...
  • Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac. ...
  • Intego Mac Internet Security X9. ...
  • Sophos Home Premium. ...
  • McAfee Antivirus Plus. ...
  • Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac.
12 Sept 2022

How do I run a virus check on my Mac? ›

How Macs Automatically Check For Viruses
  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click Security & Privacy.
  3. Click the General tab.
  4. Click the Lock icon to unlock the panel.
  5. Choose the App Store or App Store and identified developers to permit downloads from only those sources.

Should I have firewall turned on on my Mac? ›

The firewall is a good option to enable if you're connected to a public Wi-Fi network, such as one at a cafe, library, or other hotspot. For home networks you can usually rely on your router's firewall for protection, though enabling the OS X firewall for added security generally won't cause additional problems.

Do I need Norton on my Mac? ›

Absolutely no. The Mac's operating system has its own virus protection built in. Also those apps will definitely slow down your computer and they can also cause other problems.

Is Norton good for Mac? ›

Norton's macOS edition doesn't have every feature you get on Windows, but it's much more than a simple antivirus. It includes a firewall, exploit prevention, and a file cleanup scanner, as well as full-featured VPN protection. You can use your licenses to protect up to five macOS, Windows, Android, or iOS devices.

How do I get rid of virus on Mac? ›

How to remove a virus from a Mac
  1. Use a virus removal tool for Mac. As mentioned, using a Mac virus cleaner is far and away the most effective way to flush malware from your device. ...
  2. Uninstall recently added apps. ...
  3. Delete unwanted browser extensions.
21 Nov 2019

Is Apple security Virus warning real? ›

The threat isn't real, and scammers simply seek to gather personal and financial information to defraud you. Apple never uses security alerts on its devices, so whenever you encounter one, you can be sure it's not legitimate.

How do you know if your Mac has a Trojan virus? ›

Signs your Mac might have a Trojan virus:
  1. Extremely slow performance.
  2. Crashes and freeze-ups.
  3. Files deleting themselves.
  4. Your antivirus is disabled.
  5. More pop-ups.
  6. Your web browser gets redirected.
22 Apr 2022

How do I empty my Mac cache? ›

How to clear the cache on Mac: User cache
  1. Open Finder, click go and click Go to Folder.
  2. Type ~/Library/Caches.
  3. Right-click on a file.
  4. Click move to Trash.
27 Jul 2022

What is the best antivirus software for Mac 2022? ›

Our Best Antivirus Software for Mac of 2022
  • #1 Avast.
  • #2 Intego.
  • #2 Bitdefender.
  • #2 Norton.
  • #5 Malwarebytes.
  • #5 Kaspersky.
  • #5 Avira.
  • #5 TotalAV.
16 May 2022

Does antivirus slow down Mac? ›

Your favorite antivirus app probably runs in the background to keep you protected at all times. This can slow your Mac down, even if it has a fast solid-state drive. So, decide whether your situation warrants using antivirus software now and then, all the time in the background, or never.

Is Clean My Mac worth it? ›

CleanMyMac X still remains the best way to clean your Mac and take care of its maintenance regularly. The changes the app has brought through the new update make the process only easier. At the end of the day, you can spend less time with CleanMyMac X and enjoy more storage space and better speed.

Has Mac been hacked? ›

One way to tell if you have been hacked is to check for strange activity on the Activity Monitor. You should check network activity specifically. If you spot excessive network activity, a hacker may likely have gained access to your Mac. Another way to check is to go and see the Sharing part in System Preferences.

Should my firewall be on? ›

Newer firewalls on both PC and Macs are checking each packet in micro-seconds, so they don't have much drag on speed or system resources. Turning them off won't give you any real benefit, so it's better to leave them on and have that extra layer of protection.

How do I run a virus scan on my computer? ›

To do this, go to “Windows Security” > “Virus & threat protection,” and click the “Quick scan” button. If you want to do a more thorough scan, which will take longer but will check all your files and running programs, you can instead click the “Scan options” button, and choose “Full scan.”

Can a macbook be hacked? ›

Do Macs get hacked? It may be rare when compared to Windows, but yes, there have been cases where Macs have been accessed by hackers.

What happens when you turn on firewall on Mac? ›

A firewall can protect your Mac from unwanted contact initiated by other computers when you're connected to the internet or a network. However, your Mac can still allow access through the firewall for some services and apps.

Does firewall slow down internet? ›

Yes, a firewall will have a slight effect on internet speed if it is unable to process data as fast as your internet speed.

Is Microsoft Defender enough? ›

For a pre-installed free service, Microsoft Defender does an adequate job of securing your Windows PC. However, there are multiple free antivirus software for Windows that provides better protection than Microsoft Defender.

Is McAfee really necessary? ›

Yes. McAfee is a good antivirus and worth the investment. It offers an extensive security suite that will keep your computer safe from malware and other online threats. It works really well on Windows, Android, Mac and iOS and the McAfee LiveSafe plan works on an unlimited number of personal devices.

Can I install Norton 360 on my Mac? ›

Yes. Norton 360 is available for Mac computers. It works on current and previous two versions of Mac OS.

Which is better McAfee or Norton? ›

While McAfee is a good all-round product, Norton comes in at a similar price point with better protection scores and slightly more useful security features such as a VPN, webcam protection, and ransomware protection, so I would give Norton the edge.

Do Apple iPhones need Norton Security? ›

Since both iPads and iPhones use the iOS operating system, neither type of device needs antivirus software. However, Macs use a different operating system, macOS, so yes, you do need antivirus software for Macs.

Does Norton remove malware? ›

Yes, Norton 360 provides anti malware protection. It protects against computer viruses, spam, social dangers, phishing, identity theft, and other online born threats.

Does Apple fix viruses for free? ›

The most common names for this malware are MacDefender, MacProtector and MacSecurity. Apple released a free software update (Security Update 2011-003) that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender malware and its known variants.

Is it hard to get a virus on a Mac? ›

In fact, it's entirely possible to get a virus on your Mac. While it's true that Apple created one of the most secure operating systems around with macOS, there is still lots of malicious software (malware) designed to infect it.

Does factory reset remove virus? ›

On an Android device, a factory reset will generally remove a virus. The Android operating system uses an app on its recovery partition during a hard reset to restore factory settings. Malicious apps on mobile devices are less prevalent than desktop systems where antivirus software is crucial.

Has Apple been hacked 2022? ›

Apple, Meta, Twitter, and Samsung have all disclosed cybersecurity attacks this year. We track the latest data breaches. Data breaches have been on the rise for a number of years, and sadly, 2022 has been littered with thefts of sensitive information.

How can you tell a fake virus warning? ›

3 Most Common Fake Virus Warnings
  1. Website Advertisements Disguised as Virus Scanners. ...
  2. Browser Popups Claiming to Be Virus Scanners. ...
  3. System Tray Notifications Pretending to Be Operating System Warnings. ...
  4. Don't Click the Fake Alert. ...
  5. Make Sure It's a Fake Warning. ...
  6. Search for the Antivirus Product's Name.
3 Jun 2020

Why am I getting virus warnings on my Mac? ›

"VIRUS ALERT TO APPLE" is another fake error message delivered by various rogue websites. As a rule, users visit these sites inadvertently - they are redirected by unwanted applications (PUAs) or intrusive advertisements displayed on other deceptive sites.

How do I detect spyware on my Mac? ›

Use a spyware removal tool to check for spyware on a Mac
  1. Download AVG AntiVirus FREE for Mac: ...
  2. Install the app and follow the setup instructions.
  3. Click Scan Mac to see your scan options.
  4. Start with a Mac Scan. ...
  5. AVG AntiVirus FREE will detect any spies or other malware hiding out in your machine.
25 Feb 2021

How can I check if my Mac is infected? ›

Signs your Mac is infected with Malware
  1. Your Mac is slower than usual. ...
  2. You receive security alerts without scanning your Mac. ...
  3. Your browser has a new homepage or extensions you haven't added. ...
  4. You are bombarded with ads. ...
  5. You can't access personal files and see a ransom/fine/warning note.

How do I know if my Mac has Activity Monitor malware? ›

Look for any suspicious processes that are running on your Mac. On the menu bar, click Go, and then select Utilities. Double-click Activity Monitor. Review the list for any processes that look suspicious to investigate further.

What happens if I delete all cache files on Mac? ›

It's good to be careful about deleting stuff from your Mac, but it's generally safe to remove cached data. You shouldn't run into any major issues if you delete cached files from system-level (/Library/Caches/) and user-level folders (~/Library/Caches/).

Does clearing cache delete passwords? ›

The answer is “No” and the passwords do not get deleted along with the cache if you proceed with clearing the cache without checking the checkbox before the 'Passwords and other sign-in data' field.

Do I need to empty the cache on my Mac? ›

System cache, as you'd probably expect, is data created by macOS that helps your Mac run smoothly. Because it's connected to the operating system we would recommend against deleting any system cache, unless you are using a specific tool to do so.

Do you need antivirus for Mac 2022? ›

In short, yes, you do need antivirus for your Mac. Mac computers are not immune to viruses, and other malware and Mac-targeted attacks are increasingly prevalent. Following best practices for securing your device and using built-in security features can help, but antivirus software can protect your device even further.

What antivirus does Mac come with? ›

These include Gatekeeper, which blocks software that hasn't been digitally approved by Apple from running on your Mac without your agreement, and XProtect, which is Apple's own antivirus built in to macOS. More on those security features below.

Is McAfee safe for Mac? ›

On both Windows and macOS, McAfee achieved a stellar 100% detection. You can't do better than that. Webroot also scored 100% detection, while Bitdefender and Avast One came close with 99%.

Does Mac have a built in virus scanner? ›

Since 2009, Apple has included XProtect, Apple's proprietary antivirus software, on all Macs. XProtect scans all applications and files for viruses and malware using a database of threats that Apple updates daily. If XProtect detects malware on a file or application, it notifies the user and blocks the download.

Which antivirus is best for Macbook Air? ›

The best Mac antivirus software you can get
  • Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac. ...
  • Norton 360 Standard. ...
  • Avast Security for Mac. ...
  • Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac. ...
  • Intego Mac Internet Security X9. ...
  • Sophos Home Premium. ...
  • McAfee Antivirus Plus. ...
  • Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac.
12 Sept 2022

Is Antivirus one good for Mac? ›

We highly recommend full disk scanning using Antivirus One on a regular basis to keep your Mac safe from security threats. Price may vary by location.

Is CleanMyMac a Antivirus? ›

CleanMyMac X is a fresh new player on the antivirus market. Which one gives you best protection for your money? Below we've compared these anti-malware solutions so you can make your own opinion.

Does CleanMyMac slow down computer? ›

Given the idea behind Clean My Mac is to speed up your laptop, there are a lot of reports that it does the opposite. Clean My Mac doesn't slow down your laptop. From what I've seen, it doesn't constantly run in the background either. That makes it unlikely that it slows down performance.

Is CleanMyMac worth it 2022? ›

Combined with the features, disadvantages, and the price of CleanMyMac X, it is not worth paying for it because the expensive price is higher than its real value. There are many other powerful Mac cleaning tools with lower prices.

Does antivirus slow down Mac? ›

Your favorite antivirus app probably runs in the background to keep you protected at all times. This can slow your Mac down, even if it has a fast solid-state drive. So, decide whether your situation warrants using antivirus software now and then, all the time in the background, or never.

Is antivirus still necessary? ›

In most cases, you should cough up the cash. Depending on your device's operating system, adding antivirus protection beyond what's built in ranges from a good idea to an absolute necessity. Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS all include protection against malware, in one way or another.

Do I need Norton on my Mac? ›

Absolutely no. The Mac's operating system has its own virus protection built in. Also those apps will definitely slow down your computer and they can also cause other problems.

Is McAfee really necessary? ›

Yes. McAfee is a good antivirus and worth the investment. It offers an extensive security suite that will keep your computer safe from malware and other online threats. It works really well on Windows, Android, Mac and iOS and the McAfee LiveSafe plan works on an unlimited number of personal devices.

What slows down a Mac? ›

If your Mac runs slowly
  • Your computer's startup disk may not have enough free disk space. ...
  • An app you're using may require more memory than your Mac has easily available. ...
  • Quit any app that isn't compatible with your Mac. ...
  • Quit any apps you're not using.

Does Norton work on Mac? ›

Available for Windows™ PC, Mac®, iOS and Android™ devices: Norton Secure VPN is compatible with PCs, Macs, Android smartphones and tablets, iPads, and iPhones. Norton Secure VPN may be used on the specified number of devices – with unlimited use during the subscription term.

Does McAfee work on Mac? ›

McAfee software is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android devices.

Are Paid antivirus worth it? ›

Premium security tools are much better suited to today's internet threat landscape—particularly if you're not the most experienced user. That's why premium antivirus apps are especially great for families. Children and seniors are often targeted by identity theft scams.

Which antivirus is better McAfee or Norton? ›

While McAfee is a good all-round product, Norton comes in at a similar price point with better protection scores and slightly more useful security features such as a VPN, webcam protection, and ransomware protection, so I would give Norton the edge.

Is it safe to use laptop without antivirus? ›

Once it's on your computer or laptop, malware can steal your data, encrypt it so you can't access it, or even erase it completely. For this reason it's important that you always use antivirus software, and keep it up to date to protect your data and devices.

What happens if I turn on firewall on Mac? ›

A firewall can protect your Mac from unwanted contact initiated by other computers when you're connected to the internet or a network. However, your Mac can still allow access through the firewall for some services and apps.

Is Microsoft Defender enough? ›

For a pre-installed free service, Microsoft Defender does an adequate job of securing your Windows PC. However, there are multiple free antivirus software for Windows that provides better protection than Microsoft Defender.

Does Norton clean my computer? ›

Run File Cleanup

If you see the My Norton window, next to Device Security, click Open. In the Norton product main window, double-click Performance, and then click File Cleanup. When the activity is complete, click Close.

Are paid antivirus better than free? ›

Free anti-virus solutions offer basic protection against common viruses whereas paid anti-virus software offers more advanced protection. For example, Kaspersky Internet Security uses a system watching component which makes it better at spotting yet-unknown malware and computer virus threats.

Can you trust McAfee? ›

Yes. McAfee is a reliable antivirus that you can use to scan your PC for viruses and protect it in real-time. It performed consistently well in my tests, detecting all kinds of malware, such as ransomware, spyware, cryptojackers, adware, etc. Also, this antivirus is backed by McAfee Virus Pledge.

How much does McAfee cost per year? ›

Free Trial Terms: At the end of your trial period you will be charged $39.99 for the first term. After the first term, you will be automatically renewed at the renewal price (currently $109.99/yr). We will charge you 7-days before renewal.

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