How to Identify Malware in Activity Monitor

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Viruses often hide in parts of the computer where they are difficult to detect. However, on Mac, there is a way to detect them by checking every process that is running on the system. This is because many of them still run as a process on the computer, albeit in a disguised manner.

Using Activity Monitor is one way to detect malware like these. In this piece, we will look at the way you can use Activity Monitor to detect malware. Also, we will discuss the alternative ways you can scan for malware and how the default security protocol on Mac works. Still with us?

Use Activity Monitor To Identify Viruses One Your Mac

If you are someone who likes going through parts of your computer like the activity monitor, you would have noticed that all running processes show up there. This is a great thing to have when you are concerned about possible malware on your Mac. To use the activity monitor to check for these, follow the steps below

  • Go to your Applications folder, and in there, go to Utilities. From here, go to Activity Monitor.
  • Go to the CPU tab of the activity monitor and click on %CPU. This will give you a great insight as malware often take up significant memory.
  • Check all processes that seem unfamiliar. If you are not sure, do a Google search to know if it’s a harmless process or not.

However, the problem with using Activity Monitor to find malware is that some viruses do not show up there. Therefore, you should not rely on this method alone. Rather, you should also use alternative methods of scanning for malware.

Alternative Ways To Scan For Malware One Mac

Using Activity Monitor will probably not be enough in your search for malware. The alternative ways of doing this are:

  • Checking Login items: Login items are programs that start you every time you launch your Mac.
  • Go through Browser extensions: Many malware hide in the browser. The main symptom of this is weird changes to the proper running of your browser like unwarranted pop-ups, ads and even changes to the landing page and how websites are portrayed.
  • Scan using antivirus software: This is the easiest and most convenient way of checking for malware on a Mac. The only downside is that most antivirus programs require you to pay to use them.

These are the ways of checking for malware on your Mac. They work in addition with XProtect, the default malware protection program. XProtect regularly scans your Mac for all malware and gets rid of any detected.

Common Mac Viruses To Be Aware Of

Because Macs and Windows are so fundamentally different, rarely does the same malware affect them the same way. For this reason, there are specific viruses developed to target Macs. Knowing these will always be handy information to have so you can check them in your activity monitor. Some of them are:

  • Mshelper: This virus makes the processor of the infected Mac run at maximum capacity. This takes away memory from other processes and can even make doing any other thing impossible. The name in the activity monitor will be the same.
  • OSX.VSearch: This macOS-specific virus turns texts on websites into hyperlinks. These will keep directing you to unrelated websites and ruin your browsing experience.
  •  Silver Sparrow: This malware is the first known to target the new Apple M1 chip. It enters the system through Apple installer packages and runs a JavaScript code even before it has been installed.
  • XcodeSpy: XcodeSpy is a sophisticated malware that targets Apple developers. It uses the script running feature of Xcode to create and spread malicious Xcode projects.
  • OSX/Shyler Malware: This can get into your Mac by disguising as a Flash player installer. It then uses a fake Siri message to notify you of threats on your Mac. If the pop-up is used to “clean” the computer of the purported viruses, Shyler then takes over and installs adware into the computer.
  • Adware.Ironcore: This adware disguises itself as a browser extension. It’s mostly introduced to the computer by software bundling. This is a case where a legitimate program is tampered with, so it is installed along with malware.

This is not an exclusive list, and there are a few more Mac viruses that are not here. You can always check for others when going through your running processes and applications.


You can use your activity monitor to detect malware running on your computer. You only need to go through all running processes in the monitor and check them against all known Mac malware. However, it will probably not be enough because some malware might not appear in the activity monitor. Thus, you should use other scanning options like checking login items, browser extensions, and all installed programs. You can also use an antivirus program to scan your Mac.

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