Can Macs Get Viruses? Explained

It’s a long-standing question- can Macs get viruses? Most people believe only Windows computers can get viruses and malware, thinking Macs are always in the safe spot. Unfortunately, that’s a misconception. Apple computers are indeed more secure than Windows machines, but MacBooks, Mac Minis, and iMacs aren’t immune to all computer viruses. Now, you must be thinking how likely it is to get a virus on a Mac. Well, read on to know how vulnerable Macs are to malware, signs if your Mac has a virus, whether your MacBook needs an anti-virus, and how to protect your Apple computer from online threats. Without any ado, let’s begin!

Do MacBooks Get Viruses?

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While Macs are comparatively less vulnerable than Windows computers, they can still get viruses. Apple’s macOS is designed to fight against viruses and malware, but there are plenty of sophisticated malware that can find their way to Macs. Unarguably Apple computers have become a lot more popular today, but they are still less widely used than Windows computers. Therefore, cybercriminals are more focused on creating malware for Windows machines. Now that Mac’s share is rapidly increasing, cybercriminals are equally interested in Apple devices.

While the Mac operating system offers strong protections built into them, they may not offer comprehensive protection, particularly against the latest malware threats. So, Macs are also exposed to different types of viruses and malware.

What Online Threats and Malware Can Affect Macs?

When you’re thinking about how to protect your Mac against viruses, the first step is to know about the types of computer viruses and malware that can affect Macs. Below are the common types of Mac malware:

1. Viruses

Malicious software programs that can run code or perform tasks without the user’s knowledge. They can self-replicate themselves into other files or programs to create malicious files, take screenshots, hack your webcam, corrupt data, and do much more.

2. Adware

It’s a type of malware that takes over your computer, bombarding it with numerous ads and pop-ups that can track you, take you to malicious websites, or slow down the machine.

3. Spyware

It’s an unwanted computer program that can spy on you and track your online activities without your knowledge. It can record everything you do online, allowing the virus’s creators to see emails you send or passwords you enter.

4. Ransomware

It locks your device and completely takes over your apps, files, and other data. The hackers will demand a ransom (usually a payment in cryptocurrency) in exchange for unlocking your Mac or releasing any files.

5. Trojans

It’s a type of malware that tricks you into downloading a corrupted computer program that looks legitimate. When you click on the download link, hidden malware is installed on your MacBook.

6. Phishing

It’s one of the most common cybercrimes where the attacker will pretend to be someone you know or trust to trick you into sharing personal information which can be used for identity theft or stealing money.

7. Cryptojacking

Cryptomining malware or Cryptominers is a type of malware that exploits your Mac’s computing power to mine cryptocurrencies for the attacker. It can also delve into your browser’s cookies to steal your crypto wallets if you have any.

Do Macs Have Built-in Antivirus?

Apple computers don’t come with conventional anti-virus software. Rather, Macs come with several built-in security features that offer protection against viruses. Here are some of the built-in anti-malware features on Macs:

1. XProtect

This is Apple’s proprietary anti-virus software that’s been built into all Macs since 2009. It runs in the background all the time to scan your machine and isolate any threats.

2. Gatekeeper

Apple’s Gatekeeper software does a great job of verifying that the apps you’re trying to download have not been tampered with. Also, it blocks all apps created by malware developers.

3. Malware Removal Tool

To keep the users protected, Apple computers have a Malware Removal Tool (MRT) that automatically scans Macs to catch any malware that may have gotten past XProtect. Also, it runs hand-in-hand with XProtect to automatically remove any malware detected by XProtect.

4. Sandboxed apps

Rather than giving full access to your data, Mac computers have sandboxed apps. This means an app is allowed to access the minimal data that’s required while restricting access to other apps, macOS, or other system resources. This is done to minimize any damage if you open a faulty or compromised app.

5. Apple Review and Notarization

These features work together to protect you from dangerous apps. The App Review feature checks every app before it’s made available on the App Store. On the other hand, Notarization scans all Mac software for malicious content or issues before it is ever installed.

How Do You Tell If Your Mac Has a Virus?

There are a few signs of a Mac that’s infected with viruses or malware. If you experience one or more of the following, your MacBook may have a virus.

Do MacBooks Need Anti-Virus?

Honestly speaking, it isn’t mandatory to install an anti-virus on your MacBooks or Mac computers. Apple does a great job at placing various security measures at the operating system level that protect Macs from the worst malware attacks. Apple’s built-in anti-virus and other security measures inspect every app for malware and they won’t let you open up to any software/tool that hasn’t been approved by Apple.

That said, there are times when the malware has managed to seep into the system and the Mac hasn’t responded to that threat as quickly as expected. If you have some crucial data on your system and want the best protection, you may consider going for a dedicated anti-virus software. It will add an extra layer of security and keep you protected. Some of the most popular ones include Intego Mac Internet Security, Norton, McAfee, and more. Of course, anti-virus software offers various advantages and more peace of mind, but it isn’t essential for all Macs.

How to Protect Your Mac from Viruses?

You don’t have to be an IT guy or buy an anti-virus to protect your Macs. Practicing good digital hygiene and keeping a note of a few safety tips will go a long way to ensure your Mac isn’t infected with any malware. So, make sure to make a note of the following:

  • Never click on any unknown/suspicious links or attachments.
  • Keep your Mac up-to-date with the latest macOS version.
  • Use a VPN when you’re connected to a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network.
  • Download apps and software only from the Mac App Store or well-known websites.
  • Avoid clicking on unwanted pop-ups.
  • Back up your MacBook data.
  • Keep the firewall enabled and never ignore Gatekeeper alerts.
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