Can Macs Get Viruses?
Yes. Yes, Macs can get viruses. Sadly, your MacBook, iMac, or Mac Mini can all get infected with malicious software. Macs may be less vulnerable than Windows computers, but hackers can and do successfully attack them, too.
We often underestimate the risk when getting a new MacBook. Yet, the consequences of getting a virus are always unpleasant — from seeing annoying popup ads to getting your files held to ransom.
But, there’s no reason for panic. Both Apple and independent cybersecurity companies like us are working on ways to secure your Mac, your privacy, and your peace of mind. Let’s take a look and see what kind of Mac viruses there are, what they can do, and how you can protect yourself.
How do Macs get viruses?
Over 60,000 malicious programs were developed in 2019 just to attack Apple computers. And they all differ in the way they spread and affect a computer. Let’s check out the most popular 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. You’re casually surfing the web, and suddenly there’s a blazing banner: “Free Flash Player! Download Now!” It might be another program, although Flash Player seems to be the most popular bait. And pirated and cracked software shared for free is no less dangerous.
If you proceed and download the app, there won’t be anything useful inside. Instead, you might get malware. It could lead to you getting shown endless annoying ads and even let a hacker spy on you, along with a bunch of other things that can jeopardize your digital security and harm your Mac.
Fake virus infection warnings
Similarly, a scary banner may pop up in your browser saying something like “Your system is infected with three viruses! Fix now!” This is a hoax. No web page can check your Mac for malware simply by landing on it.
But many people don’t know this and, as a result, a virus gets in and a fake threat turns into a real one.
Cybercriminals may send you a fraudulent email to place a virus on your Mac. The message might look like a notification from your bank, a well-known company, your friend or family member. The email will contain a link or an attachment and will urge you to click it.
If you merely receive it or even open the message, most likely, nothing bad’s going to happen. However, if you click the attachment or follow the link, it can trigger the installation of malware.
What types of Mac malware are there?
Well, first, let’s get on the same page in terms of the words we’re using. The word “virus” is often used for any malware, though it’s just one type of malware among many. So, by “MacBook virus” a person may mean an adware program, a Trojan horse, or a ransomware threat. What does it all mean? Let’s find out!
Here are the most popular types of Mac malware:
Spyware is a computer program that can be used to secretly follow your online activities. Spyware quietly works in the background of an infected computer, sharing all the monitored data with a hacker.
Adware is unwanted software that causes annoying pop-ups and random advertisements. Sometimes, adware may have some spyware features and monitor your online activities to personalize the advertising you see.
A Trojan is a harmful program that passes itself off as a normal, useful app. In fact, its main goal is to give a criminal access to your computer. Just like the wooden horse in the Ancient Greek story, this kind of malware looks all nice and impressive but actually wants to harm your Mac and destroy your city (maybe just the first one).
Similarly to Trojans, scamware wears a mask and pretends to be a legitimate program. And again, its true motivation is different. For example, scamware that looks like an antivirus may 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 your computer will be actually restored.
Does my Mac have a virus?
Have you noticed your computer acting weird? Is it malware or is your Mac just going a difficult emotional phase? Here’s how to check for a virus on your Mac.
These are the most widespread symptoms of Apple viruses:
- Your Mac is running slow, heats up, or crashes
- You notice apps you don’t remember installing
- Annoying pop-ups appear everytime you browse the internet
- You’re prompted to download an antivirus or another app
Sounds familiar? Think you’ve got a virus? It’s not that simple. Sometimes, these signs can appear in the absence of any malware. For example, you have too many apps open, and it slows down your Mac. Or you’re running a new game that requires too many resources—hence, you Mac heats up and freezes. Or you’ve visited a website that is packed with ads by design.
To be sure whether your Mac has a virus, you need to run reliable antivirus software. Be sure it’s something you’ve knowingly chosen and got from a reliable and reputable source (Ahem…).
How to protect your Mac from viruses?
There are three layers of protection when it comes to securing your Mac from malware. Here they are:
Apple security mechanisms
Apple has already implemented a lot of security solutions to keep your Mac safe. First, there are strict security checks for all apps distributed through App Store. Since June 1, 2019, Mac software intended for macOS Catalina and distributed outside of App Store is also subject to a procedure of notarization. This check proves the app doesn’t have malicious components. Finally, Gatekeeper on your Mac checks the apps you download to make sure they’re verified by Apple. Moreover, Safari, the default Mac browser, can detect websites that contain malware.
However, this protection is not universal. There are known cases when malware successfully bypassed Gatekeeper.
Modern antivirus software usually does more than merely protect you from malware. For example, it may anonymize your internet connection or hide you from advertising trackers. It’s a good idea to complement Apple security mechanisms with additional tools like this.
But still, software alone can’t protect you from every new threat. The essence of online scam is to make you willingly do something harmful, like download a dangerous app, send your password to a hacker, or loosen your security settings. In the end, your security really comes down to you.
Wise security practices
No matter how innovative and reliable your devices are, you still need to act sensibly. Be careful with links and attachments in messages, avoid questionable and pirated software, and keep cool when you see threatening messages.
What have we learnt?
“Do MacBooks get viruses?” Yes, they certainly do.
Viruses and other malicious programs can bring a ton of negative consequences. At a bare minimum an infection can be annoying, at the other end of the scale it can totally wreck your computer.
So, remember these three golden rules to help you stay protected: Apple security mechanisms, good antivirus software, and cautious online behavior. Surf safe, people!
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