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Topic Mac Security

Do Macs get viruses? Find out if malware can affect your Mac

Yes, Macs can get viruses.  


Sadly, your MacBook, iMac, or Mac Mini can all get infected with malware. Macs are less vulnerable than Windows computers, but viruses and hackers can successfully attack them too.


It’s easy to underestimate the risk when you buy a new MacBook. Yet, the consequences of getting a virus are always unpleasant and range from seeing annoying pop-up ads to your files being held to ransom.


Do Macs get viruses? The bad news is they can. But the good news is Clario provides all-around anti-malware protection so you can browse safely and keep your Mac secure. Start your free trial of Clario now and keep your Mac malware-free.


Luckily, both Apple and independent cybersecurity companies are working on ways to secure your Mac, your privacy, and your peace of mind. Let’s see why people tend to think Macs don’t get viruses and what threats and malware for Mac computers are out there. We will also see what they can do, and how you can protect yourself.

Does Mac have built-in antivirus?

Apple’s recommendations on protecting your Mac from viruses and malware are clear and brief: avoid any third-party apps (those not in the App Store) and you’ll be safe. But is there some actual virus protection built-in to your Mac computer?  


Yes, although it looks and acts nothing like the antivirus software we’re used to on other platforms. The built-in anti-malware blocks or removes the unwanted software using:

  • XD (Execute Disable)
  • ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization)
  • SIP (System Integrity Protection).
  • Xprotect
  • Gatekeeper
  • Apple’s Security & Privacy
mac sucurity settings
Apple’s Security and Privacy Settings on macOS Big Sur. This setting allows the downloading and installing of apps not from the App Store — so be careful!

However, these security features still don’t mean that Mac computers will never get malware.

How can Macs get viruses?

A mind-blowing 674,000+ malicious programs were developed in 2020 to attack Apple computers, and the problem is only getting worse. Mac malware differs to others by how it spreads and affects laptops and desktops. Let’s check out the most probable ways you can get a virus on your Mac.


Fake apps and updates

In most cases, Mac virus developers try to lure you into downloading a fake app or a software update. However, when this happens, you won’t get the software you were hoping for. Instead, your Mac will get malware. Installing it could lead to you seeing endless annoying ads and even let hackers spy on you, along with a bunch of other online threats that can jeopardize your digital security and harm your Mac.


Phishing emails

Cybercriminals may sometimes send you a fraudulent email to infect your Mac with a virus. The message might look like a harmless notification from your bank, a well-known company, your friend, or a family member. The email will contain a link or an attachment and will urge you to click it. As a result, it can trigger the installation of malware.

What types of Mac malware are there?

First, let’s see what you are dealing with when you get a virus on a Mac. The word “virus” is often used for all malware, though it’s just one type of malware. A “MacBook virus” may mean an adware program, a Trojan horse, a ransomware threat, or some other malicious software. How exactly can malware affect Mac? Let’s find out!


These are the most popular types of Mac malware:


Spyware is a computer program that hackers can use to spy on you (hence the name) and secretly follow your online activities. It works quietly in the background and shares the monitored data with the virus’ creators.



Adware is unwanted software that causes annoying pop-ups and random advertisements. Sometimes, the adware may have some spyware features and monitor your online activities to personalize the advertising you see.



A Trojan is a harmful program that pretends to be a regular useful app. But just like the wooden horse in the Ancient Greek story, its primary goal is to provide access to your computer to its creator.



Like Trojans, scamware pretends to be a legitimate program. Its goal is to trick you into providing your personal information and/or your money. For example, scamware may pretend to be an antivirus and show you a fake warning about a virus on your Mac to make you pay for a fix. Alternatively, scamware may urge you to download another, even more harmful program.



Ransomware is a particularly nasty type of malware. It invades your computer, locks you out of controlling it, then displays a ransom note. Hackers demand payment in cryptocurrencies to get their dough anonymously. And if you do pay up, there’s no guarantee control of your computer will actually be restored to you.  



Cryptominers (or cryptojackers) are malware that use the computing power of your Mac to mine cryptocurrencies for the attacker. Some cryptominers will also dig into your browsers’ cookies to try to steal the contents of your crypto wallets if you have any.  

Does my Mac have a virus?

Have you noticed your Mac computer acting weird? Is it malware, or is your Mac just going through a difficult emotional phase? This is how to tell if your Mac got a virus.


Advertising banners and pop-ups for suspicious-looking software

These are signs that you may have accidentally installed adware or malicious software. Don’t click on these pop-ups — they can be a gateway to inadvertently downloading more malware on your Mac machine.  


Unknown apps installed on your Mac

If you see some software that you don’t remember installing on your list of programs and you’re the only person who has access to your computer, well, bad news. There is a very high chance that a virus has infected your Mac.


Your Mac crashes way too often

It’s annoying but quite normal for your Mac to crash now and then, especially if you’re running many programs simultaneously. However, if it has started crashing more often and you can’t pinpoint the cause — then it could be a virus.


Your Mac overheats

Your computer heating up is a sign that many programs are working in the background. If this happens when you’re simply browsing or chatting with friends, an overheating computer may mean that malware is silently doing its own thing on your machine.


Your Mac speeds up or slows down for no reason

If you’ve had your Mac for a long time, you know exactly how long it takes for specific programs to load or work. If all of a sudden, your Mac is running slow or speeding up, then beware.


If your Mac experiences one or several of these symptoms, chances are, your computer is infected — find out how to scan your Mac for malware and what to do if it catches a bug. Read on to know how to best protect your Mac from viruses more effectively in the future.

How to protect your Mac from viruses?  

Prevention is better than the cure so take these proactive steps to make sure you’re not exposing your Mac to danger.  


Apple’s security mechanisms

Apple has several ways to keep your Mac and your information safe without you even knowing how hard your macOS is silently working behind the scenes.

  • Apple has strict App Review security checks for all apps distributed through the App Store. This ensures that the software contains no malicious code or is not problematic in some other way.
  • Since June 1, 2019, software intended for macOS Catalina (and higher) and distributed outside of the App Store is also subject to a special check (notarization). This proves the app doesn’t have malicious components.
  • Apple T2 Chip secure enclave coprocessor enables the Touch ID, secure boot, and encrypted storage functionalities.
  • Safari, the default Mac browser, can detect malware-infected and fraudulent websites and protect your passwords.
  • App Access asks for your permission to access files in your Documents, Downloads, and iCloud.
  • Finally, Gatekeeper on your Mac checks the apps you download to make sure Apple verifies them.
The app used for taking this screenshot is not a part of the App Store, but it is verified by Apple and can be safely used on a Mac.

Сonscious approach to security  

No matter how innovative and reliable your devices are, it would be best if you still acted sensibly.  

  • Update macOS when asked as it comes with the latest security updates
  • Don’t download or click links from unknown sources or on sketchy websites as they can lead to the installation of viruses
  • Educate yourself on the latest Mac threats — read updates on new Apple features and security (for the latest cybersecurity news and tips, you can subscribe to our blog too)
  • Avoid suspicious-looking emails or messages as they can be phishing traps full of malware


Antivirus software

Even though you can remove malware manually on a Mac, it’s best if you have Mac antivirus software permanently installed on your computer. This way, it’ll constantly work to protect your device. For all-around protection, make sure you are running a cybersecurity product to provide overall protection for your Apple machine.

Do Macs really need antivirus?

Apple itself won’t admit to any flaws in its system. To be fair, it does its part by regularly updating the OS with the latest security features. But for the reasons previously outlined, having an extra layer of security protection for your Mac goes a long way. So yes, you need antivirus software for your Mac.


With over one billion Apple users, Mac’s market share is growing and becoming more attractive for hackers. Unfortunately, this means more infected devices and more potential victims. According to the State of Malware Report 2021, the average number of Mac malware detections for businesses in 2020 increased by 31% compared to the 2019 stats.


Mac owners are also perceived to be more affluent than users of other platforms. And criminals would prefer to go after the bigger fish, of course!


Do you need Antivirus for Mac M1 Processors?

If you wonder whether you can get malware on an M1 Mac, you won’t like the answer. Unfortunately, even these cutting-edge new Macs running on Apple’s state-of-the-art first ARM-based chipset have already fallen prey to developers of malware. The ‘Silver Sparrow’ malware is one of the most prominent and dangerous examples, but it certainly won’t be the last one to affect M1 laptops, desktops, and tablets.  


This means that even if you’re running the latest top hardware and software created by Apple, you still need to use a reliable antivirus application on top to ensure your machine is best protected.  


Clario is a top-notch digital protection tool that combines anti-malware and 24/7 live assistance from a team of security professionals. Keep your digital life safe with Clario — start your free trial now.


Viruses and other malicious programs can bring many negative consequences. Infections can range from merely being annoying to totally wrecking your computer. Even though many people mistakenly think that Macs don’t get viruses, they certainly do.  


So, remember to use these three golden rules for protecting your Mac from viruses:  

  • Don’t ignore Apple security mechanisms
  • Don’t click suspicious links
  • Use good antivirus software


Safe and happy browsing to you!

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