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What you need to know about Macs and malware

For the longest time, Mac owners would feel superior to Windows users because they didn’t have to use antivirus or malware scanners. The more secure architecture of Mac OS meant that there were no real threats for Apple users. That has all changed, as our Mac support team can attest, so what do you need to know about Macs and malware?

The first thing you need to know is that there are viruses and malware designed to target your Mac. That means you do need to protect all Macs in your office and should do so immediately. There is a maintained list of Mac threats on this website.

With that said, the number of threats is still much lower for Mac than Windows. This is partly down to how Macs are put together and partly down to the popularity of Windows computers in business. They are usually cheaper and easier to build so work well for startups or smaller businesses where resources are tight. This has made them prime targets.

Why are Macs more secure than Windows?

The key reason why Macs have always been more secure than Windows is down to Mac OS. Apple built Mac OS from Unix which is an inherently secure operating system. Not only does it come with some built-in security, its architecture is naturally more secure thanks to how different elements of the OS interact.

Add to that the closed system Apple has created with Gatekeeper blocking any software running on a Mac that hasn’t been quality checked by Apple. If an app or piece of software hasn’t been digitally signed by Apple as passing QA, Gatekeeper won’t let you use it.

Then add the built-in Xprotect malware scanner that works invisibly in the background scanning every file you open or download and you see why Apple is still regarded as much more secure than Windows out of the box.

That doesn’t mean Macs are immune though because they are not. They are just subject to fewer attacks than Windows. This is why many businesses in New Jersey and elsewhere like using Macs. Our Mac support team like using them too!

Apple incentive program

As well as building in security, Apple also runs an incentive program that offers up to $200,000 in bounty payments for anyone who discovers flaws or vulnerabilities in any Apple product. Other companies run similar programs as it is an excellent way of seeing just how secure a system is.

Apple’s own researchers may know the system inside and out but put a product into the hands of the public and within minutes they will show you all the things you missed during the design phase. The incentive program uses this principle to make sure Mac OS is as secure as it can be.

The incentive program could do with some improvement but seems up to the task of finding and quashing bugs.

Protecting your business from Mac viruses and malware

The built-in protections are robust and very effective but there are still threats out there that Apple cannot fix on its own. To protect your business data or productivity from harm, you need to do a couple of things.

First, you should have an understanding of how a virus or malware is delivered to a computer.

Most malware and viruses are delivered as infected files. This can be through email spam, infected websites, infected downloads or completely fake downloads. For example, if you do a web search for ‘Mac antivirus’ some of the results on the first page are actually fakes that contain the very viruses or malware you are trying to protect yourself from.

Gatekeeper and Xprotect can protect you from the worst of these threats but the newer, more sophisticated threats can occasionally circumvent these protections.

Next you need to be aware of the signs of an infection. They are:

  • Your Macs becoming slow and sluggish for no discernible reason.
  • Fans running more than usual.
  • New apps or toolbars appearing that you didn’t install.
  • Your browser not taking you where you want to go or showing more ads and popups than usual.
  • Web searches taking you to random websites rather than those you selected.
  • Unrecognized apps running in Activity Monitor.

Removing viruses or malware

If you think your business may have been targeted by malware or a computer may be infected, our Mac support team has a few tips for you to follow.

  • Stop using your Mac right away.
  • Don’t type in any data, log into any websites or provide the malware anything it can use against you.
  • Check Activity Monitor for any running processes you don’t recognize.

If nothing obvious seems to be happening but you’re seeing some of those symptoms from above, use a third party malware scanner to check your system. Our Mac support guys recommend Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac. It’s free, scans your entire system and can remove the vast majority of threats. There is a premium package available if you like what it does.

Open Bitdefender, select Update Definitions to download the latest signatures and then select Deep Scan. It could take a couple of hours so make sure you have saved your work and can leave the scanner to do its thing.

This should be enough to clean the vast majority of threats from a Mac. If you want to be doubly sure, clean out the Trash, clear your browser cache, empty the download folder if you downloaded anything from the web and change your system password. If all else fails, you can reinstall MacOS from scratch. That’s a big job and not always necessary but is the only way to be truly sure you don’t have an infection.

In the vast majority of cases, Gatekeeper and Xprotect will keep your Mac secure. Bitdefender does a very credible job or clearing out malware too and should be enough to protect your business.

If all else fails, contact the Mac support team at New Jersey Computer Help. We can visit your premises and make sure you’re all clear. It’s all part of what we do. Contact us for more information.

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