It’s a long-standing question. Can Apple computers get viruses?
While Apple does go to great lengths to keep all its devices safe, this doesn’t mean your Mac is immune to all computer viruses. So, does what Apple provide in terms of antivirus protection? Let’s take a look, along with some signs that your Mac may be hacked and how you can protect yourself from further threats beyond viruses, like identity theft.
Signs that your Mac may be hacked
Whether hackers physically sneak it onto your device or by tricking you into installing it via a phony app, a sketchy website, or a phishing attack, viruses and malware can create problems for you in a couple ways:
- Keylogging: In the hands of a hacker, keylogging works like a stalker by snooping information as you type.
- Trojans: Trojans are type of malware that can be disguised in your computer to extract important data, such as credit card account details or personal information.
- Cryptominers: Similar to trojans, this software hides on a device. From there, it harnesses the device’s computing power to “mine” cryptocurrencies. While cryptomining is not illegal, “cryptojacking” a device without the owner’s consent is most certainly illegal.
Some possible signs of hacking software on your Mac include:
Maybe you’ve seen some of the signs we mentioned earlier. Is your device operating slower, are web pages and apps harder to load, or does your battery never seem to keep a charge? These are all signs that you could have malware running in the background, zapping your device’s resources.
Your computer feels like it’s running hot
Like the performance issues above, malware or mining apps running in the background can burn extra computing power (and data). Aside from sapping performance, malware and mining apps can cause your computer to run hot or even overheat.
Mystery apps or data
If you find apps you haven’t downloaded, along with messages and emails that you didn’t send, that’s a red flag. A hacker may have hijacked your computer to send messages or to spread malware to your contacts. Similarly, if you see spikes in your data usage, that could be a sign of a hack as well.
Pop-ups or changes to your screen
Malware can also be behind spammy pop-ups, changes to your home screen, or bookmarks to suspicious websites. In fact, if you see any configuration changes you didn’t personally make, this is another big clue that your computer has been hacked.
What kind of antivirus do Macs have?
Macs contain several built-in features that help protect them from viruses:
- XProtect and Automatic Quarantine: XProtect is Apple’s proprietary antivirus software that’s been included on all Macs since 2009. Functionally, it works the same as any other antivirus, where it scans files and apps for malware by referencing a database of known threats that Apple maintains and updates regularly. From there, suspicious files are quarantined by limiting their access to the Mac’s operating system and other key functions. However, XProtect relies upon up-to-date information to spot malicious files. In some instances, this information can lag behind the current threat landscape—meaning that XProtect may not always protect Mac users from the latest threats.
- Malware Removal Tool: To further keep Apple users protected, the Malware Removal Tool (MRT) scans Macs to spot and catch any malware that may have slipped past XProtect. Similar to XProtect, it relies on a set of constantly updated definitions that help identify potential malware. According to Apple, MRT removes malware upon receiving updated information, and it continues to check for infections on restart and login.
- Notarization, Gatekeeper, and the App Review Process: Another way Apple keeps its users safe across MacOS and iOS devices is its Notarization process. Apps built to run on Apple devices go through an initial review before they can be distributed and sold outside of Apple’s App Store. When this review turns up no instances of malware, Apple issues a Notarization ticket. That ticket is recognized in another part of the MacOS, Gatekeeper, which verifies the ticket and allows the app to launch. Additionally, if a previously approved app is later to found to be malicious, Apple can revoke its Notarization and prevent it from running.
Similarly, all apps that wish to be sold on the Apple App Store must go through Apple’s App Review. While not strictly a review for malware, security matters are considered in the process. Per Apple, “We review all apps and app updates submitted to the App Store in an effort to determine whether they are reliable, perform as expected, respect user privacy, and are free of objectionable content.”
- Further features: In addition to the above, Apple includes technologies that prevent malware from doing more harm, such as preventing damage to critical system files.
Do I need antivirus for my Mac?
There are a couple reasons why Mac users may want to consider additional protection in addition to the antivirus protection that Mac provides out of the box:
- Apple’s antivirus may not recognize the latest threats. A component of strong antivirus protection is a current and comprehensive database of virus definitions. As noted above, Apple’s virus definitions may lag behind the latest threats, leaving Mac owners who solely rely on XProtect and other features susceptible to attack.
- Apple’s built-in security measures for Macs largely focus on viruses and malware alone. While protecting yourself from viruses and malware is of utmost importance (and always will be), the reality is that antivirus is not enough. Enjoying the life online today means knowing your privacy and identity are protected as well.
In all, Macs are like any other connected device. They’re susceptible to threats and vulnerabilities as well. Looking more broadly, there’s the wider world of threats on the internet, such as phishing attacks, malicious links and downloads, prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, data breaches, identity theft, and so on. It’s for this reason Mac users may think about bolstering their defenses further with online protection software.
Further protecting your Mac from viruses and attacks
Staying safer online follows a simple recipe:
- Being aware of the threats that are out there.
- Understanding where your gaps in protection are.
- Taking steps to protecting yourself from those threats and closing any gaps as they arise.
Reading between the lines, that recipe can take a bit of work. However, comprehensive online protection can take care of it for you. In particular, McAfee+ includes an exclusive Protection Score, which checks to see how safe you are online, identifies any gaps, and then offers personalized guidance to seal up any gaps—in all, walking you through that safety recipe and helping you know exactly how safe you are.
Protect more than your Mac—protect yourself
An important part of a Protection Score involves how well you protect your identity and privacy, which illustrates how staying safe online requires more than just antivirus. Antivirus protects your devices, whereas identity and privacy protection looks after you.
Online threats have evolved, so has online protection software. While malware and viruses will always be a threat and antivirus will always be needed to counter that threat, today’s hackers, scammers, and thieves increasingly target you. They’re after your personal info, online banking accounts, financial info, and even your social media accounts, so that they can commit identity theft and fraud in your name.
Further, companies and third parties collect data from your devices and the things you do on them. Personal data from public sources that can include records about you that involve bankruptcies, real estate sales, and birth records. It’s also gathered from private sources, like the health and wellness apps you use, the shopping record on your supermarket discount card, who you chat with in messaging apps, and so on. This information can end up with data brokers who’ll sell it to anyone, like background checkers, advertisers, private investigators, and practically anyone who wants to know more, lots more, about you. And that includes hackers, scammers, and thieves.
The fact is, we go about so much of our day online, and online protection like our own McAfee+ helps you do it more privately and more safely. It’s quite comprehensive, and the various plans for McAfee+ include:
- Personal Data Cleanup reveals which high-risk data brokers and people search sites are collecting and selling your personal information and requests the removal of the information, confirms completion, and conducts ongoing scans as data is always being collected.
- Unlimited Secure VPN that automatically connects to public Wi-Fi to protect online privacy and safeguard personal data while online banking, shopping, or browsing.
- $1M Identity Theft and Stolen Funds Coverage to reimburse lost funds or expenses in restoring the customer’s identity, including losses to 401(k) accounts.
- Ransomware Coverage to reimburse up to $25,000 for losses and ransom fees.
- Licensed Restoration Experts who can take necessary actions to repair identity and credit issues, including assistance to assist with identity fraud of a deceased family member.
- Credit Monitoring and Alerts keeps an eye on changes to your credit score, report, and accounts with timely notifications and guidance so you can take action to tackle identity theft.
- Credit Score and Report to help you stay on top of daily changes to your credit score and report, from a single location.
- Lock reduces the chance of becoming a victim of identity theft by allowing you to quickly lock and unlock your credit, which can help prevent unauthorized opening of accounts.
- Security Freeze prevents unauthorized access to existing accounts or new ones being set up in your name with a credit, bank, or utility freeze.
- Identity Monitoring for up to 60 unique pieces of personal information on the dark web with timely alerts up to 10 months sooner than competitive products.
Consider your security options for your Mac
So, Macs can and do get viruses and are subject to threats just like any other computer. While Macs have strong protections built into them, they may not offer the full breadth of protection you want, particularly in terms of online identity theft and the ability to protect you from the latest malware threats. Consider the threats you want to keep clear of and then take a look at your options that’ll help keep you safe.
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