We’re all tired of hearing about how to protect ourselves from a particular nasty bug by now, but what about our devices?
If you think the answer to the question “do Macs get viruses” is no, we’ve got bad news—security breaches of their operating system skyrocketed in 2021.
Fret not, though—below, we have all the info on recognising threats and stopping them in their tracks.
Can You Get a Virus on a Mac?
Despite the widespread belief that Macs are malware-resistant due to the built-in Mac antivirus and additional firewall that blocks online attacks, Apple computers aren’t as safe as they used to be.
Here’s a list of the most common threats that could attack your macOS simply through you visiting websites:
Aside from online threats, Macs can also get infected through:
- Phone calls
- SMS phishing attacks
- Their webcams (spyware)
- Connecting to unsecured computer networks
- Pairing with infected systems.
Signs That Your Mac Is Infected
1.Excessive ads and pop-ups—are you seeing more ads on websites than usual, in places they didn’t used to be? There’s a good chance you’ve installed something you shouldn’t have.
2. Slowed processes—there can be plenty of reasons for this, especially if you aren’t doing scheduled updates. However, if you’re staying on top of that, you don’t have too many files on your device, and it’s still very slow, it might’ve been made part of a botnet network.
These can be used for many purposes, such as DDoS attacks or crypto mining, resulting in excessive CPU and RAM usage.
3. Infection is confirmed by a malware scanner—to avoid false alarms and possible fake antiviruses, trusting Clam XAV, Malwarebytes or Bitdefender Virus Scanner is your best bet.
4. You suddenly have a new homepage (or even an extension on your browser you don’t recall adding).
5. Every time you try to access certain personal files, you get a ransom demand.
6. Your messages end up in the spam folder—are your friends alerting you that your emails and messages aren’t reaching them, only to find them in the spam/junk folder? This is their email client’s defence guarding them against your infected account or device.
All of these attacks happen outside of the Apple Store, which is considered secure. So if you’re not installing anything from elsewhere and are updating your OS regularly, browser and phishing link threats shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
Common Types of Mac Malware
Even though the answer to the question “do Macs get less viruses than PCs” is an equivocal yes, and Apple has some pretty strict measures against malware and common threats in place (such as not allowing third-party software to be installed), devious hackers have found roundabout ways to breach a Mac operating system.
- GoSearch22 (Pirri) was the first malware to target the M1 chip, a type of adware that pops ads up in odd places.
- LoudMiner is cryptomining malware downloaded in a cracked version of the very popular Ableton Live app.
- ThiefQuest is malware disguised as ransomware but actually aiming to steal data from your Mac.
- GravityRAT is a notorious Trojan that’s been used for military breaches that also works on macOS, able to upload Office files and record keyboard logs by using stolen developer certificates to bypass Gatekeeper.
- XCSSET is a family of worms spread through Xcode projects posted on Github that collect information through Telegram, Skype, as well as requesting Safari login details and Apple Store accounts.
- CrescentCore is Mac malware disguised as a DMG file in Adobe Flash Player Installer, sneaking in rogue apps, such as Advanced Mac Cleaner or Launch Agent.
- DOK is a Trojan horse able to bypass Apple’s security and protection, hijacking incoming and outgoing traffic, usually sent via email in the form of a phishing attack.
Mac Vulnerabilities: How Do Macs Usually Get Infected?
These common types of malware can breach a Mac using these vulnerabilities, i.e. software bugs.
- Meltdown and Spectre—flaws discovered in Intel chips, which was the main reason they got replaced with the M1 chip in 2020.
- Word macro viruses—the Microsoft Office suite allows macros to be installed and used in documents, potentially granting them access to other programs on the computer.
How to Scan a Mac for Viruses
1. Check for threats using anti-malware software.
Do Apple Macs get viruses? They are at risk of them, but more so of malware. Using complete full suite antivirus software proven to work for Macs is the best option to detect them. Run Scan and remove any threats.
2. Automatically check Macs for viruses.
Go to System Preferences > choose Security & Privacy > General > then Lock Icon to unlock the panel > choose App Store / App Store and identified developers.
This will alert you of anything coming from a third party and keep your device safe from such intrusions in the future.
3. Check for unwanted apps with Finder.
Open Finder > Application Folder > check for anything you don’t seem to recognise > Delete > Empty Trash.
4. Stop malware that is running via your Activity Monitor.
Before deleting malware, you need to stop it. Here’s how:
Go to Application > Utilities > Activity Monitor > find the ones with the highest CPU and memory usage > click ‘X’ in the top left corner to close the app > locate it in Finder > Delete > Empty Trash.
5. Check your browser and remove extensions.
Open Safari > Preferences > General > check the homepage address, and if it’s unfamiliar, change it to your own preference.
Go to Safari > Extensions Tab > tick the ‘X’ boxes next to unfamiliar extensions > Uninstall.
6. Remove suspicious login items.
It’s typical for malware to quietly start in the background with some other host program as soon as you log onto your Mac. Here’s how to prevent it:
Click the Apple Icon in the top menu > System Preferences > Users & Groups > move to Login Items > check all suspicious items > click the minus sign to remove them.
7. Clear your Downloads list
DMG files and intruder programs infiltrating alongside video players and Word documents are also a threat. Thus, it’s best if you get rid of all download files you no longer need.
Go to Finder > Downloads > Delete such files.
Final Verdict: Do You Need an Antivirus for Mac?
So, can a Mac get a virus? In short, yes. Although the built-in XProtect anti-malware comes with every Mac, having a back up plan or another full-suite, robust AV platform is recommended.
1. Do Macs get viruses easily?
How often do Macs get viruses? While not nearly as frequently as devices running Windows, threats targeting macOS are on the rise.
2. Can Macs get viruses from websites?
The key threat to a Mac is websites and online browsing since their built-in security mechanisms, such as the XProtect and Sandboxing, mainly apply to downloaded apps and system preferences.
3. Will Apple notify you of viruses?
Even though the answer to “do Macs get viruses” is definitely yes, Apple doesn’t send alerts of threats and viruses.