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Do I Need Antivirus if I have a Mac? (Built-in Antivirus?)

Last Updated May 25, 2022
MacBook

Apple devices are known for having a very secure system, both from malware and humans. This then begs the question. Are they secure enough not to need antivirus software?

MacBooks do not need an antivirus because of the way they are set up. However, the security in place might not be enough to guard against all threats, so getting a good Antivirus program for your computer is advisable.

In this piece, we discuss this in detail while looking at the reasons for the increase in attacks on Apple computers. Also, we will look at how Apple Secures MacBooks and the limitations of their methods. Shall we?

Do You Need An Antivirus With Mac?

It has long been held that Mac users have nothing to fear from any kind of attack. This is for many reasons. Having a small share of the market made MacBooks not much of a target for hackers looking to attack many people. Also, Apple always updates its security apparatus to keep up with all known attacks.

However, these do not make them totally safe from malware. Threats are being developed every day, and it is more difficult for the default security protocol to cope with them. On the other hand, paid antivirus programs readily develop precautions against these new attacks faster than Apple.

It can be admitted that the chances of malware breaking into a Mac, even without an antivirus, are low. Despite this, the risk is still there and should be guarded against by getting a good antivirus software like Kaspersky or Malwarebytes.

Can Macs Get Malware?

For years, it was commonly held that MacBooks are secure and can never fall victim to malware. And for the time, it was true. However, the past few years have led to increased attacks on Macs, both successfully and otherwise. Now, Macs are still very secure, but they are susceptible to virus attacks.

However, Malwarebytes, a security firm that specializes in securing gadgets like Windows and Mac systems, reported that malware attacks like data stealing and crypto mining on Macs increased by 61 percent in 2020. There are a few reasons for this increase in attacks on Macs, and they will be discussed in the next section.

The reasons for this increase in successful attacks are quite a few. They include:

  • An increasing number of Mac users: Historically, the Windows operating system has had a large market share, so hackers always focused on them as potential victims. However, with advances leading to more people getting computers, and Macs specifically, many of these malicious actors now target Macs too, as they now give a juicy mark, so to speak.
  • Advances in Malware technology: The unfortunate side of most technologies is the evil people do with them. With more and more people becoming programmers, all the advances in the ecosystem are also being replicated by hackers. So, as Apple builds better systems to increase security further, hackers are still looking for ways to exploit these systems.
  • Increase in Windows Security: Because computers that run on the Windows operating system were so vulnerable and numerous, most malicious actors focused on them as potential victims. However, with Windows increasing its security and people adopting antivirus software on top, this has shrunk this previously large victim pool. This phenomenon has led to more attacks on Macs.

Despite these, or because of them, Apple has put protocols in place that tackle these dangers.

How Apple Secures Macs

Every system that uses MacOS has Xprotect built into it. This software works round the clock in the background, scanning all apps for malware. It runs these checks by searching for all known Mac viruses. This list is frequently updated in the background, so your computer is up to date with the latest threats.

Asides from Xprotect, there is Gatekeeper which checks every newly downloaded software against the list of Apple-certified developers. By default, Gatekeeper only allows programs from the Apple store to be installed. You can, however, set it to include software from other sources that verified developers develop. Recent updates have also allowed Gatekeeper to regularly scan all software for malware that might be introduced after installation.

There are also Safari protection and sandboxing. Sandboxing ensures that all apps downloaded from the app store only perform their stated functions. This ensures that no suspicious introductions are added after installation. However, some software from verified developers is not sandboxed. But despite this, there are features in the Mac operating system that ensure that programs don’t go beyond their limits. On the other hand, Safari protection ensures that websites can’t spy on you or introduce malicious files to your computer while surfing.

Now, while this security apparatus is strong enough to overwhelm the majority of attacks, there are still limitations. Apple updates its threats list less frequently than third-party antivirus software. Also, sandboxing has been evaded by some new Mac viruses in the past. This makes getting antivirus software (preferably paid) an excellent path to follow.

Conclusion

MacBooks are still very secure and have an excellent security framework against many attacks. However, advances in technology used by malicious actors have made even Macs prone to attacks. And while the default Mac protocols against antivirus are capable of fighting most of these threats, they are not as efficient as third-party software developed solely for that purpose. Therefore, every Mac owner should get a proper antivirus program to secure their computer.

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