Do Apple Macs Need Anti-Virus?

There is a common belief that Macs are safer than Windows and that they don’t get Viruses. Although some of those statements are true, they are purely based on numbers. If you look at the market share of Desktop operating systems, you can see that Windows dominates the market still:

For malicious parties, more targets, means more money. This could be why there is a perception that there are no viruses for MACs. There are, there are just so few. There are however, high volumes of Malware.

“By the end of 2017, the Malwarebytes intel team counted 270 percent more unique threats on the Mac platform than in 2016” — Malwarebytes

Although those dates are now outdated, those figures haven’t gone down. Malware is very much a threat to MACs today.

What can Malware do?

Malware is “software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system”.

Malware is seen as often annoying and less of a risk than virus. The most common Malware categories being:

  • Cryto-mining.
  • Ad-injections and browser redirections.
  • Data theft.

They may be annoying but can still pose a serious threat. Some can redirect and nudge you towards entering your credentials into false prompts. These fake prompt or sites can then harvest those credentials and will be either sold or used.

The good news is that Apple have Malware security inbuilt into their operating system by default. This being Quarantine, XProtect and Gatekeeper. There is no management for these features, and they do their job without you knowing. Each has it own purpose but together help prevent infection.

  • Quarantine: Aims to protect against downloaded Malware by prompting the user before execution.
  • XProtect: Prevents Malware from running. It does this by using its signature database.
  • Gatekeeper: Prevents applications from being installed that haven’t been digitally “signed”.

What about ransomware?

Ransomware still runs on MacOS X and not just Windows. In 2016 ransomware known as KeRanger affected over 7000 Mac users. Although early on, there has been more since, such as Patcher (2017). Most won’t be aware due to most ransomware attacks affect Windows and not OS X. 
Plus most enterprises run Windows environments so when big companies get hit, the main focus is on Windows.

Do I need Anti-virus?

The short answer would be yes. MacOS continues to rise. As it gets more popular, the risk increases to all because more users equals more targets.

Malicious parties aren’t dumb and the more this false confidence continues, the more likely their attacks will work. They could even be the ones advertising this for self gain. Instead, we should except the fact that the numbers are showing us that MacOS is safer for now however, we need to be prepared for the future.

Swings and roundabouts really. Although you installed an Anti-virus solution, I feel that you can be less restrictive with it (as of today). Because the risk remains low, it shouldn’t hog all the resource and scan every ten minutes. When a vendor suggests a whole directory, it will most likely be less of a risk doing is on a Mac as it would on a Windows system.

You can also look to use additional tools to fill in the gaps should you steer away from AV. Things like Security proxies and managing the firewall. Threats are often network based; Downloads from sites or upload/redirect to malicious/Phishing sites. If you have a solution that intercepts or can prevent this, it could be enough to keep you safe.

If you’re wanting more, you can look for solution such as the ones from Objective-See. These guys have some cool tools that can boost security……for free:

Should you wish to read more on the increase of Malware, there is a really insight report here…..


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