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Do I need antivirus for mac and can Macs get viruses?

7 min read

Do you need virus protection on a Mac? Mac security is often overlooked because for a long time, hackers weren’t targeting Macs, leading to a notion Macs are invincible. It’s true that an Apple Mac computer is less likely to be affected by malware than a PC, but nothing is 100% immune from viruses.

On Windows, viruses have an open pathway to your files, so you need to install an antivirus to act as a gatekeeper. On Macs, malware has a harder time getting in because the entire system is sandboxed. But if you install an infected file on your own, a virus can still find its way in. So having a backup protection plan is a very good idea. 

We’ll show you the right ways to protect your Mac from viruses.

How OSX protects your computer?

Can Macs get viruses? Yes. It’s rare, but they can. This is why apple has some built-in virus protection, including ‘sandboxing’ apps and browser tabs, which keeps each process limited to its own runtime environment. Apps simply can’t interact with one another unless you allow them to.

Apple also forces developers writing software for macOS to at least notarize apps, which is a half-step towards making software available in the Mac App Store. Your Mac also forces you to explicitly tell it which apps should have access to its most sensitive files and settings.

Mac is also based on the Unix system, a highly secure foundation which also supports Linux. A feature named Xprotect lives on your Mac, too, and scans files for viruses and malware.

Do you need virus protection on a mac

You may be wondering “do I need antivirus on my Mac?” After all, attacks are rare, and you’re a pretty safe internet browser, and you don’t download sketchy files. Maybe you think you don’t need it!

We would caution against that thinking. Though Apple has included a ton of security features for your Mac to safeguard against viruses, the real power of those tools arrives when they know what they’re looking for. You may have noticed modern macOS builds have several iterative ‘security’ updates; that’s because viruses, malware, adware, and other bothersome software move faster than Apple and macOS updates. 

Third-party virus protection is typically better. It can be updated more often, and usually has a team dedicated to updating the app with the latest safeguards for your Mac. Next time you think “do I need antivirus for Mac,” the answer should be “yes.”

Can Macs Get Viruses?

Absolutely. Macs may get viruses less frequently than a PC, but viruses occur on macOS, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Most major viruses – like Shlayer, CrescentCore, Linker, LoudMiner, NewTab, Meltdown, and Spectre – have all made appearances on the Mac platform.

Additionally, apps like Zoom have been compromised by hackers, which introduces a new entry point for hackers. Apple can’t always catch up to those exploits as quickly.

How to find out if my Mac has a virus?

From time to time, you may wonder “does my Mac have a virus?” Your best bet for discovering viruses on your Mac is CleanMyMac X. It’s updated routinely with a fresh library of vulnerabilities for your Mac, and the chances of malware or viruses slipping past CleanMyMc X is slim. It’s one of the best tools you can have for your Mac, with tons of uses beyond Malware detection. We love CleanMyMac X because it keeps Macs running in perfect working condition all the time.

After you run CleanMyMac X on your computer, it’s a good idea to have a backup of your clean, organized, tidy, virus-free system. That’s where Get Backup Pro comes in. It helps you make highly compressed backups of your Mac system, which can be used to boot fresh on a new Mac or the Mac you have now. If a pesky virus happens to sneak by you, having a backup created by Get Backup Pro can help you start fresh from a clean backup, every time.

8 Tips of how to protect your Mac from viruses

Depending on the type, malware can affect a Mac in different ways. Symptoms of a virus can include sluggish applications, strange ads on websites, random pop-ups appearing on your screen, or a new browser toolbar that you don’t remember installing. By following a few antivirus tips and ways to protect Mac outlined in this article, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of having your computer attacked by any sort of a virus.

Let's discover the best Mac antivirus protection tips.

1. Turn on Mac's firewall

Ensure your Mac’s firewall is turned on. A firewall is a software that provides protection against viruses, hackers, or other malware. Enabling the firewall will block any unwanted network connections. Contrary to popular belief, the firewall is not always automatically enabled. You’ll need to manually go into your computer’s Privacy and Security settings to double check if your firewall is doing its work to keep your private information safe from hackers.

  1. Click on System Preferences in the Apple menu
  2. Click on Security and Privacy
  3. To change the settings, click on the padlock at the bottom left corner
  4. If the firewall is turned off, click Turn on Firewall so that a green light appears
  5. Click on Firewall Options to check that the Enable Stealth Mode box is selected

Turn on firewall

2. Check your Mac privacy settings

To protect yourself from possible hackers, you may want to adjust your privacy settings. In the same Security and Privacy window, click on Location Services. There, you can control which apps have access to your location data. You can also switch location services completely off to prevent any apps from knowing where you are.

By clicking on Contacts, Calendar, and Reminders, you can change the settings to allow or disallow certain apps on your Mac to access the information stored in these Mac apps as well.

The browser history on your Mac keeps track of your everyday web surfing. And sometimes you want to keep it private. Here's how to quickly and safely remove browser history from your Mac.

3. Be wary of email links

Email links are one of the most common ways that hackers can distribute viruses and malware to unsuspecting victims. This process is called phishing. Phishing scams have even been known to take down CEOs of large companies. For example, the CEO of an airplane part manufacturer lost his company $56M after falling for a phishing scam asking for a secret transaction via email. This story serves as a good reminder — unless you know who the email sender is, don’t click on the email link. Be especially careful of emails that may look legitimate and ask you to click a link to view an important message.

4. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Don’t assume your computer is safe when connected to a shared network. Whether you’re at a cafe or just connected to a free WiFi, it can be very simple for someone with bad intentions to see the data you’re transmitting across websites.

It’s a good idea to surf the internet more securely by using a VPN. With a VPN, all your data is encrypted and sent via the VPN server. Another person using the same cafe’s WiFi, for example, will be blocked from accessing your information. Here's how to setup VPN tutorial.

Apple offers a manual VPN tool that you can use to connect to your VPN service. If you want a simpler platform that offers military-precision security for connecting with your preferred VPN network, try Shimo, a powerful but easy-to-use VPN manager.

5. Trust Quarantine: Are You Sure You Want to Open It?

As part of all recent versions of macOS, File Quarantine is a feature that works automatically to protect your Mac. When you download an application off the internet, you probably have noticed a small pop up window appear that says you’ve downloaded the application. This will only happen if the application has been digitally signed by the developer. Without a digital signature from the developer, the application won’t even make it onto your computer.

Trust notification

Only open apps you’ve downloaded from trusted developers or from the App Store. Make sure you check that the app name displayed on the pop up window is the same one that you intended to download. If it isn’t, don’t agree to open it.

6. Install a malware protection program

If you suspect your computer may have the symptoms of a virus, try installing malware removal software such as CleanMyMac X to scan your Mac and remove anything malicious. If the program finds any malware or viruses, it will notify you. To check your Mac, clean, and protect your computer follow these steps:

  1. Open CleanMyMac X
  2. Click on Malware Remove under the Protection category
  3. Run the scanner and remove anything malicious when prompted

Removing malware in CleanMyMac

7. Avoid getting Flash and Java

Using fake installers, hackers can mask pretend updates to lure people into downloading malware using Java and Flash. Older versions of these tools have been known to spread viruses and malware. For example, the MacDownloader malware was spread using an outdated version of Flash to entice unsuspecting victims to download it onto their computers.

If you can avoid downloading Flash and Java in the first place, you may make yourself less vulnerable to these malware infiltrations. Besides, you probably don’t need Flash anyway — most of the internet now uses HTML5 video which avoids Flash altogether.

8. Keep an up-to-date browser

Lastly, having the latest version of your browser, whether it is Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, will also help with virus protection for your Mac. Updates for Safari are automatically installed with any macOS updates. For Chrome or Firefox updates, you’ll need to manually update when the browser sends out an alert that a newer version is available. Security features that fight malware are usually included in these newer browser versions.

To recap, just following these simple steps will reduce the chances of your computer contracting malware by nearly 90%. It’s great that Macs already come with a lot of default apps and tools that make your computer safer, but getting some extra help is essential too. Best of all, apps like CleanMyMac X and Shimo are available to try free on Setapp for up to seven days. So check Mac today to see what might be going on. Better safe than sorry.


Can Apple computers get viruses? Does macintosh need antivirus software? The answer to both is yes. That’s why we advocate for CleanMyMac X and Get Backup Pro. These are the best apps for safeguarding your Mac, ensuring it’s running at peak condition, and creating secure backups in case something goes wrong. These apps are just that good!

Both are available for free as part of a seven day trial of Setapp, the world’s best suite of productivity apps for your Mac. In addition to these apps, you’ll get immediate and unlimited access to nearly 200 other great Mac apps during your trial. Retaining access to the entire Setapp catalog is only $9.99 per month once the trial ends. A great bargain – so what are you waiting for? Give Setapp a try today!

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