Many people believe that Macs are immune to viruses, but this is not entirely true. While Macs may be less vulnerable to viruses compared to Windows PCs, they are not invincible. Macs can still be infected with viruses, malware, and other types of malicious software.
A case in point is a malware called Silver Sparrow that attacked about 30,000 Macs with M1 processors. Besides this malware, there are many other documented cases of malware and viruses infecting Macs.
Now, let’s step back a bit to understand how your Macs can get viruses in the first place.
How Do Mac Viruses Get on My Computer?
Mac viruses can get on your computer in a variety of ways:
One common way is through downloading and installing unverified software or apps from the internet. Hackers can disguise malicious software as legitimate applications, and once you install them on your device, they can start wreaking havoc on your computer.
You might argue that Apple’s built-in malware checks the downloaded software against its global definition of malware before allowing you to install it on your device. Though this gatekeeper software prevents most malicious software, it’s never 100%.
Take the case of XMRig.
In February 2023, it was discovered that pirated copies of Final Cut Pro, downloaded from unauthorized sources on the internet, were infected with a crypto-mining software. Though XMRig is a legitimate, open-source utility, the malware in it runs in the background and mines cryptocurrency, negatively impacting the performance of your computer. The mined cryptocurrency is sent to the attacker’s wallet.
What makes this malware particularly concerning is that it can avoid detection by the Activity Monitor app. It stops running when Activity Monitor launches and relaunches when the user quits Activity Monitor, making it difficult to detect.
Another way viruses can infect your computer is through phishing emails. Hackers can send emails that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as your bank or Apple, and ask you to click on a link or download an attachment. Once you do so, your device could become infected with malware. Some examples of such malware that infected Macs are Lazarus, Alchimist, and CrateDepression.
The list can go on, but this clearly shows that Macs are not immune to malware and viruses, and can wreak havoc on your device.
What Are the Risks of Viruses?
The risks of viruses can vary depending on the type of virus or malware that infects your computer. Some viruses can steal personal information, like login credentials or credit card numbers while others can encrypt your files and demand payment in exchange for the decryption key, known as ransomware.
Viruses can also slow down your computer, cause it to crash, or delete important files. In some cases, viruses can even take control of your computer and use it to perform malicious activities, like sending spam emails or participating in a botnet.
If all this sounds scary, don’t worry! Read on as we talk about some ways to protect your Mac from viruses.
12 Ways to Protect Your Mac from Viruses
Here are 12 things you can do to protect your Mac from viruses.
Action #1: Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
One of the easiest ways to protect your Mac from viruses is to ensure that your operating system and software are always up-to-date. This is because updates often contain security patches that address known vulnerabilities that could be exploited by viruses. To keep your Mac up-to-date, go to the Apple menu and select “System Preferences,” then click on “Software Update.”
Action #2: Use Anti-Virus Software
Although Macs are less susceptible to viruses than Windows computers, it is still a good idea to use antivirus software to add an extra layer of protection. Antivirus software can detect and remove viruses, spyware, and other malware before they cause damage to your Mac. Sophos is an excellent option for protecting your Mac from viruses, as it provides real-time protection against viruses and malware.
Action #3: Be Careful About What You Download
As mentioned earlier, one of the ways that viruses can infect your Mac is through downloading and installing pirated software from untrusted sources. To protect your Mac from viruses, only download software from reputable sources, such as the App Store or the developer’s website.
When installing software, pay attention to the installation process and only install software that you trust. Be wary of any unexpected prompts or requests for personal information during the installation process.
Action #4: Use Strong Passwords
Use strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts, including your Apple ID. This will make it harder for hackers to gain access to your accounts. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and avoid using easily guessable information such as your name, birth date, or address.
Action #5: Beware of Phishing Emails
Be cautious of emails that ask you to click on a link or download an attachment. If you’re not sure if an email is legitimate, contact the sender directly to verify. Also, be cautious when clicking on website links. Viruses can be hidden in links that lead to fake websites designed to steal your personal information. If you’re not sure if a link is safe, hover over it to see the URL and make sure it’s a legitimate site.
Action #6: Enable the Firewall
macOS has a built-in firewall that can prevent unauthorized access to your computer from the internet. In particular, this firewall Mac can block incoming connections and prevent unauthorized access to your computer. To enable the firewall, go to the Apple menu and select “System Preferences,” then click on “Security & Privacy,” and select the “Firewall” tab.
Action #7: Disable Automatic Login
Automatic login makes it easier and faster to access your Mac, but it also makes it easier for viruses to gain access to your computer. By disabling automatic login, you will be required to enter your password every time you log in, providing an extra layer of protection. To disable automatic login, go to the Apple menu and select “System Preferences,” then click on “Users & Groups,” and select the “Login Options” tab.
Action #8: Turn off File Sharing
If you don’t need to share files with other users on your network, turn off file sharing to prevent unauthorized access to your files. To turn off file sharing, go to the Apple menu and select “System Preferences,” then click on “Sharing,” and uncheck the “File Sharing” box.
Action #9: Use Two-factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts by requiring a code in addition to your password. This can prevent unauthorized access to your accounts, even if your password is compromised.
Action #10: Be Cautious When Using Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks can be insecure and leave your Mac vulnerable to viruses and other malware. Avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive activities such as online banking, and use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet traffic and protect your Mac from potential threats.
Action #11: Enable the Lockdown Mode
Lockdown mode is a new feature in Mac that’s designed to protect individuals who are often targeted with sophisticated digital attacks. Most people don’t need this feature, but if you happen to be one of the few who’s specifically targeted, you may want to consider this option. When you enable the lockdown mode, most email attachments, complex web technologies, incoming FaceTime calls, shared albums, and configuration profiles are blocked.
Action #12: Encrypt using FileVault
FileVault is an encryption service that uses the advanced XTS-AES-128 encryption to prevent unauthorized access to your disk, so no one can steal your confidential information. However, note that turning on this feature can cause Mac to startup slowly because it must validate your password each time.
Protecting Your Mac from Viruses
Although Macs are generally considered to be less prone to viruses than Windows PCs, it is important to remember that they are not completely immune. While the macOS operating system has built-in security features to help protect against viruses, malware, and other threats, it is still possible for attackers to find vulnerabilities and exploit them. Therefore, Mac users should take appropriate measures to protect their computers from potential threats.
What If Your Mac is Infected?
We hope the above practical steps protect your Mac from viruses. However, we understand that not everyone may feel confident in implementing these measures on their own. If you have any questions or would like further assistance in securing your Mac from viruses, call us at (480) 576-5833.
Our team of experts is available to provide you with personalized guidance and support tailored to keep you stay safe and secure in the digital world.