Do I Need Antivirus on my Mac?
If you want to provoke an animated discussion amongst Apple users, one of the easiest ways is to bring up the subject of whether antivirus is a necessity for a Mac computer.
For many years now, a good proportion of the Mac community has argued that Mac antivirus is unnecessary. The individuals that support this argument do have some valid reasons for their view:
Firstly, the UNIX-based environment that runs the Mac operating system, OS X, IS fundamentally more secure than Windows (although it’s fair to say that Microsoft have implemented measures in recent versions of Windows that now make it work in a similar way).
Secondly, there’s a common argument that as there are far fewer computers running OS X, hackers find it much more worth their while to target Windows users when producing viruses and malware.
This is undoubtedly true, in that there are thousands more potential Windows victims out there due to Microsoft’s enviable market share. However, things aren’t quite that simple, as many complacent Mac users found out in early 2012.
The Flashback Trojan
The Flashback Trojan was first discovered in September 2011, and was one of the first major virus attacks specifically aimed at Mac users.
The malware gained traction (and hit the news) in 2012, when reports began to emerge that over half a million Macs were infected with the virus, which entered the machines thanks to a vulnerability in the Mac implementation of Java.
Apple released an update to “patch” the problem in April 2012. Unsurprisingly, it was around that time that many Mac users started to wonder if their Macs were as inherently “virus free” as they once thought.
Apple Changes Tack
It wasn’t just Apple users who became more skeptical about the security of Mac OS X around this time. In mid-2012, The Huffington Post noticed that Apple’s marketing materials had subtly changed. Rather than saying that Macs “don’t get PC viruses,” the message changed to say that Macs are “built to be safe.”
While Apple didn’t exactly put out a press release telling all of their users to rush out and buy antivirus software, their differing stance was rather symbolic.
So do I need Antivirus on my Mac?
It’s still fair to say that the virus risk on Windows PCs is far higher than on Macs, but episodes such as that of the Flashback Trojan prove that Mac users should be on their guard.
There are three more reasons why Mac antivirus has now become something worthy of consideration:
1. “Malware” is about far more than simple viruses. Modern cyber criminals are constantly updating their ways of exploiting computer users, and one of their favourite current methods is to use phishing techniques to access users personal details.
This can take the form of fake (yet convincing) emails and websites that replicate the Web presence of a genuine company, in an attempt to convince you to give up your usernames, passwords and other details. Many Mac antivirus products offer protection against these types of attack, so are well worth considering if you are worried about identify theft.
2. Macs are becoming steadily more popular, so it’s only reasonable to assume that hackers will target them more and more over the coming years.
3. Many people now use mixed computing environments. For example, some people run Windows alongside OS X on their Macs, and many share files with Windows users. If an unprotected Mac lets malware in, it could go on to infect a Windows environment. Most good Mac antivirus software can detect Windows viruses too.
The ultimate decision as to whether you install antivirus on your Mac lies with you. Many Mac users still believe that common sense is enough to protect them. However, it’s fair to say times are changing, and that those who continue to avoid a small investment in Mac antivirus are throwing caution to the wind to a foolhardy degree.
If you prefer a “risk averse” approach to things, it’s worth getting some good antivirus for your Mac. You can find our top five choices in this article.