Avoiding malware on your Mac

What is malware? It’s a broad category of bad software, including viruses and trojan horses. While it’s incredibly common in Windows, malware is pretty tame and harmless on the Mac. The most common type is not technically a virus in that it does not replicate or spread to other computers, or erase files or do serious damage to your Mac. It simply displays ads or false messages that interfere with the normal operation of your Mac.

Malware might say your computer needs a Flash upgrade (when it’s not even installed), take you to a search or home page you don’t expect, or even that you’re infected with a virus and offer virus software. Don’t pay attention to these messages – they are scams that can make the problem worse. If you’re seeing these symptoms of malware, run an app like the free Malwarebytes.

Here are tips for avoiding malware:

  • Get software from the Mac App Store. The App Store has over 20,000 apps, and every one of them has been checked by Apple and proven to not contain any malware. You can see screen shots of an app and read reviews. When you’re ready to buy (many are free), click the price and type your Apple ID password. Apple charges your credit card, which is never given to the seller.
  • Or buy apps directly from the manufacturer. Most Adobe and Microsoft apps are not sold in the App Store, so go directly to their online stores. Do not get them from anywhere else.
  • Don’t download software from bit torrent or other file sharing sites, especially if they promise commercial software for free. This is the primary way of transmitting malware.
  • Use the Safari web browser. Not only does it make full use of Apple’s technology, syncing your bookmarks and reading list with all your Macs, iPhone & iPad, it protects you from malware. Avoid software that requires Java, as this is a common source of security breaches. If you must use Adobe Flash Player, Google Chrome, Firefox or other apps, get them directly from the official sites.
  • Type the entire web site, including the www and .com if you must download an app from another source. Do not use a web search for it. For example, type www.skype.com. If you simply Google skype you’ll see many sites that are actually pretending to be Skype. You might be giving your information to strangers and downloading malware instead. 
  • Read warnings when you download and launch an app the first time. If your Mac says the software was downloaded from an unidentified developer, do not continue or type your password. Stop now and try downloading again from the App Store or company web site instead.
  • Keep your Mac and other software up-to-date. Every few weeks, Apple updates the macOS that runs your Mac to keep things safe and bug-free. Major upgrades with new features come out each fall. Most people should be running the latest versions of all software. Check for upgrades here.

Do you need antivirus software on your Mac?  While not nearly as prevalent as on Windows, Mac malware threats are becoming more common. Malwarebytes provides a simple, free way to scan and remove existing malware from your computer. And with a premium subscription, MalwareBytes monitors and removes future threats before they cause problems.

Learn more about security & troubleshooting.

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