Can a Mac Get a Virus?


Virus vs. Malware

Virus and malware are two terminologies that are often used interchangeably, and there are minimal differences between the two. Malware is an umbrella term used to refer to any sort of malicious code or threat to your Mac, which may compromise its security. A virus, just like a human virus, is self-replicating malicious code, which gets installed on a device to corrupt files. Viruses and malware are dangerous, and it is crucial to take precautions in protecting your Macintosh against both.

Can Macs Get a Virus?

A popular misconception amongst Mac users, and the computing world in general, is that Macs cannot get a virus.

While Apple, with its T2 security chip, claims the macOS is virus-free, unfortunately no operating system is ever virus-free. With the existence of a system, there must also exist people trying to break into that system and exploit its users.

A lot of Mac users also think that their operating system (macOS) is safer than Windows – this is generally correct. However, not for the reasons, you might think. It is true that there are not as many viruses out there targeting macOS as compared to Windows, but not because of their operating system. It's because there are far more Windows computers out there and connected to the internet (about 86%) than there are macOS ones (around 9%). The hackers and other bad actors generally don't bother creating viruses for Mac because they can potentially infect far more Windows users.

However, this doesn't mean that your Mac can not get a virus. You always need to take proper precautions and ensure you stay protected at all times.

How to Protect Your Mac Against Malware?

Be Careful

The easiest (and we think the most common-sense) way to protect your Mac is to only download files from trusted sources. Whenever you open a downloaded file, you will always be prompted to enter Mac ID and password. While this process offers some protection, if you do enter you password as prompted and the file you've downloaded turns out to contain a virus, you will be infected. Only open and execute files from sources that you trust.

Turn Off All Unnecessary Services

There are a lot of services that allow Mac users to share files and collaborate with other people with a Mac. While these services are beneficial, they can be exploited to tap into your device. An example of this is Screen Sharing. Screen Sharing helps you to collaborate easily, when working in a team. It’s perfectly okay to keep them on when you’re using such services, but it does not make sense to keep them turned on when not in use. We recommend turning any and all services that are not in use, off. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on the Sharing icon.
  3. Towards the left-hand corner of the screen, there are a few services.
  4. Click on the ones you’re not currently using, like screen sharing, to disable them completely.

Firewall

A firewall monitors incoming and outgoing traffic on your system and helps to ensure that no malicious code enters your device. Think of your Mac as a house with multiple doors and windows in and out of it. A firewall blocks off all the doors and windows (ports) that you don't use or need, or that are frequently used by attackers. By shutting down the number of possible entry points a virus has to your system, you are safer. Here is how you can turn on the firewall on your Mac (if it is not on already).

  1. Go to System Preferences.
  2. Click on "Security."
  3. Go to the Firewall section and turn it on.

Antivirus Software

No matter how careful you are trying to keep viruses away from your Mac, there is still a small possibility that one may get installed. In that case, the best way to protect your device is by using antivirus software. Antivirus software scans your Mac (and more importantly, your downloads!) and finds any file infected with a virus. It then either quarantines the file, while also sending an alert so you may delete that particular file.

CleanMyMac X

There is thousands of antivirus software out there, and some are better than the others. CleanMyMac X is one of the best antivirus tools out there and an excellent Mac software management tool in general.

Muaz Ashrafi

Hi! I am Muaz, a Mass Communication major. I like to think I am a free urban spirit. I write blogs with a focus on tech and gadgets. When I'm not writing, you can find me with my headphones on, relaxing to some good house EDM music. I'm also a hobbyist photographer, you can find me on Instagram @mzwithacamera.

One Comment

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  1. Good tips. I’d also like to add that browsing habits are the most surefire way to prevent getting infected. Only download from trusted sources, don’t open links in suspicious emails, use strong passwords and two-factor authentication, the basics. It’s definitely true that you are less likely to get infected on a Mac though.