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I thought Apple computers couldn’t get viruses?

We hear this a lot. But the truth is, your Apple Mac can get a virus or malware problem. We’ve had a few instances of this over the past few months so we thought it timely to write a blog to dispel some myths.


What exactly is a computer virus?

To protect yourself, it best to know what it is you are dealing with. A computer virus, like a biological virus is designed to spread from one machine to another. It can replicate itself, causing whole systems and networks to malfunction. In itself, a computer virus is a malicious code or programme that exists inside a file or document. The programme alters the way a computer operates, often harming the system software, stealing passwords, recording keystrokes, destroying data and spamming your email contacts.

Like biological viruses, computer virus can lie dormant, attached to a file or document until circumstances cause it to become active.

Scary thought time: your computer could have a virus lying dormant right now but not causing any damage!


Is my Apple Mac likely to get a virus?

Apple Macs have historically been considered safer than Windows, being less likely to be infected by a virus because they use an operating system called Unix that has in-built security features. But the situation is changing.

Most computer virus writers are more familiar with the Windows platform and many of the tools and coding used to create viruses are designed with Windows in mind. This makes it easier to create a virus for computers running Windows. As well as this, virus writers tend to target Windows as this is by far the biggest market. The majority of government departments and businesses use the Windows platform. The size of the ‘market’ and potential to cause damage is therefore higher for Windows viruses which makes them more appealing.

But that doesn’t mean Apple Macs are completely immune. Virus writers know just how popular Apple Mac’s have become. With that popularity comes a new opportunity for them to exploit. A sign of this is the fact that Apple viruses and malware have become more advanced and more damaging. Some recent examples of viruses infecting Apple Macs include:

  • PROTON infected thousands of Mac computers in 2017. It was designed to steal user’s account credentials by accessing the macOS Keychain app.
  • OSX/MaMi infected several thousand Mac computers in January 2018. This virus allowed a person to view a computer’s Internet traffic – “snooping.”
  • A very recent malware called CookieMiner is able to steal passwords and log in information from Chrome as well as access iTunes backups of text messages. This allows it to gather information to by-pass two-factor authentication.

Mac Malware reportedly grew by 270% in 2017. So our advice is: don’t risk it. Those that say Macs can get viruses are, in our opinion over-confident and wrong.


What can I do to protect it?

Apple has developed a number of security measures that make attacking a Mac more challenging.

  • One example is Gatekeeper that works by blocking non-Apple-approved software running on your Mac. It can be controlled from the Security and Privacy section of System Preferences enabling you to allow apps from the App Store OR from the App Store and Identified Developers. The best way to protect your computer is not to install third-party software unless it’s from the App Store.
  • Another is Mac’s malware scanning tool, Xprotect, that works like antivirus software and operates in the background and updates automatically. If you try and open files with malware, it will alert you that the file ‘will damage your computer’. If that happens, best to take it seriously and delete the file immediately.
  • A third is Sandobixing. This is something built into the Mac Operating System that works by ensuring Apps only do that they are intended to do. It isolates apps from other critical systems on the Mac limiting potential damage that may be caused.

But as well as replying on Apple to do that hard work for you, there steps you can take to improve the security of your Mac. It’s important to keep your Mac’s Operating System up to date and regularly check for this. These updates contain security fixes that aim to make your machine better protected. Contact us if you need any help with this.

You should also consider installing AntiVirus software for Macs. We would certainly recommend this to anyone with doubts about the risks to their security. Examples include

  • Intego VirusBarrier
  • ESET Cyber Security for Mac

Talk to us about these options and which is best for you. We can source the right protection you require.


Other things we recommend you can do to protect your Mac

  • Don’t connect to public WiFi networks. Someone could be spying on you and gain access to your passwords and other private information. This is the same for all devices – Mac and Windows. If you need to connect out and about you can connect via the mobile hotspot feature of your mobile phone.
  • If you use Java and Flash, keep the software up to date. Vulnerabilities in these software can cause problems.
  • Don’t be fooled by phishing emails. Don’t respond to emails that ask you to enter a password.
  • Don’t fall for social media scams. A link that looks too good to be true probably is. Don’t share and don’t click.

Please get in touch with us if you want help with any of the above.