9 Replies Latest reply: Dec 20, 2013 10:26 AM by John Galt
waqaskhizar Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

do i need antivirus for my mac

  • Allan Eckert Level 8 Level 8 (46,735 points)

    No, As long as you run OS X there is no need for AV software.


    If you run Windows then you do need it.



  • PrairieHeart Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Yes. There is malware written for OSX. If you are serious about your enterprise's security, or your own personal security, you should be running A/V.


    Note: Many people will think that A/V is only for virii. Modern A/V suites detect more than just virii. You can substitute my usage of the A/V moniker in this document for "Endpoint Security Program" which includes a suite of scanners and utilities to protect your system.


    People who tell you that you don't need AV for either an OSX machine or an iOS device are relying on poor math.


    They essentially are reliant on malware authors not writing code for OSX or iOS. The only reason malware authors don't write as much code for Apple operating systems is a simple game of numbers. There are more Windows machines than OSX machines (I think Apple has about 10-14% of the market share, depending upon what source you are looking at).


    Even on the mobile side, while Apple has a greater market share within the United States... globally, they do not fare as well. iOS devices account for 19% of the market share in 2013. The simple fact is that if you're a cybercriminal who writes code and you want to write code that will affect the most amount of people, you're going to write it for Windows, or Android. Or, you're going to write it for some cross-platform application like Java so that it affects an even greater amount of victims.


    I'm sure Apple fanboys will say something along the lines of, "Well, I've had my OSX machine hooked up to the internet (naked) for 10 years and not a single infection!" Good for you. You are an exception for a variety of reasons. My home computer has never had A/V on it (Windows 7) and I've never been infected either. But I'm also a power-user, a systems engineer for my company and I would also never trust a normal user without A/V. Also, just because I'm a Windows user, doesn't make me a fanboy. Alongside my Windows administration, I'm solely responsible for all of the Apple devices in my enterprise. I'm listing this information solely to be upfront and credible as opposed to biased.


    People who tell you that there is no malware for OSX or iOS are lying to you. Even the United States government (Homeland Security) has produced reports on infection rates that they see in regard to operating systems. If there is no malware for Apple devices, then we should expect the infection rates to be at 0%, however they aren't, granted, they aren't high but you can expect the rate to increase over time (in regards to market share). Also note that this report is from 2012.

    http://www.tuaw.com/2013/08/26/u-s-government-finds-0-7-of-all-mobile-malware-af fects-ios-wh/


    People who tell you that iOS is natively secure; are lying. Reference the previous paragraph. It should be 0% if it is natively secure (what system is?).


    If this is a home machine and you consider yourself "educated" on the dangers of the internet. You can probably get away with no A/V. Other people have suggested the use of Clam AV (read:free). Honestly, I wouldn't pay money for A/V either.


    If this was a business machine with business secrets, than it is absolutely unacceptable to not have A/V. Also, if you work in the healthcare industry this is most likely non-compliant with some aspect of HIPAA.


    So in short, while you can get away with no A/V, it's not the safe choice. Unless you are a power user, who understands various attack vectors on the internet (there are tons of Safari vulnerabilities) and follows a lot of the guidance that comes out from the computer security industry (don't open that attachment, phishing attempts, etc.), you should probably install A/V.

  • Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (158,980 points)
    1. This is a comment on what you should and should not do to protect yourself from malicious software ("malware") that circulates on the Internet. It does not apply to software, such as keystroke loggers, that may be installed deliberately by an intruder who has hands-on access to the victim's computer. That threat is in a different category, and there's no easy way to defend against it. If you have reason to suspect that you're the target of such an attack, you need expert help.
    If you find this comment too long or too technical, read only sections 5, 6, and 10.
    OS X now implements three layers of built-in protection specifically against malware, not counting runtime protections such as execute disable, sandboxing, system library randomization, and address space layout randomization that may also guard against other kinds of exploits.

    2. All versions of OS X since 10.6.7 have been able to detect known Mac malware in downloaded files, and to block insecure web plugins. This feature is transparent to the user, but internally Apple calls it "XProtect." The malware recognition database is automatically checked for updates once a day; however, you shouldn't rely on it, because the attackers are always at least a day ahead of the defenders.
    The following caveats apply to XProtect:
    • It can be bypassed by some third-party networking software, such as BitTorrent clients and Java applets.
    • It only applies to software downloaded from the network. Software installed from a CD or other media is not checked.
    As new versions of OS X are released, it's not clear whether Apple will indefinitely continue to maintain the XProtect database of older versions such as 10.6. The security of obsolete system versions may eventually be degraded. Security updates to the code of obsolete systems will stop being released at some point, and that may leave them open to other kinds of attack besides malware.
    3. Starting with OS X 10.7.5, there has been a second layer of built-in malware protection, designated "Gatekeeper" by Apple. By default, applications and Installer packages downloaded from the network will only run if they're digitally signed by a developer with a certificate issued by Apple. Software certified in this way hasn't necessarily been tested by Apple, but you can be reasonably sure that it hasn't been modified by anyone other than the developer. His identity is known to Apple, so he could be held legally responsible if he distributed malware. That may not mean much if the developer lives in a country with a weak legal system (see below.)
    Gatekeeper doesn't depend on a database of known malware. It has, however, the same limitations as XProtect, and in addition the following:
    • It can easily be disabled or overridden by the user.
    • A malware attacker could get control of a code-signing certificate under false pretenses, or could simply ignore the consequences of distributing codesigned malware.
    • An App Store developer could find a way to bypass Apple's oversight, or the oversight could fail due to human error.
    For the reasons given above, App Store products, and other applications recognized by Gatekeeper as signed, are safer than others, but they can't be considered absolutely safe. "Sandboxed" applications may prompt for access to private data, such as your contacts, or for access to the network. Think before granting that access. OS X security is based on user input. Never click through any request for authorization without thinking.
    4. Starting with OS X 10.8.3, a third layer of protection has been added: a "Malware Removal Tool" (MRT). MRT runs automatically in the background when you update the OS. It checks for, and removes, malware that may have evaded the other protections via a Java exploit (see below.) MRT also runs when you install or update the Apple-supplied Java runtime (but not the Oracle runtime.) Like XProtect, MRT is effective against known threats, but not against unknown ones. It notifies you if it finds malware, but otherwise there's no user interface to MRT.
    5. The built-in security features of OS X reduce the risk of malware attack, but they're not absolute protection. The first and best line of defense is always going to be your own intelligence. With the possible exception of Java exploits, all known malware circulating on the Internet that affects a fully-updated installation of OS X 10.6 or later takes the form of so-called "Trojan horses," which can only have an effect if the victim is duped into running them. The threat therefore amounts to a battle of wits between you and the malware attacker. If you're smarter than he thinks you are, you'll win.
    That means, in practice, that you always stay within a safe harbor of computing practices. How do you know what is safe?
    • Any website that prompts you to install a “codec,” “plug-in,” "player," "extractor," or “certificate” that comes from that same site, or an unknown one, is unsafe.
    • A web operator who tells you that you have a “virus,” or that anything else is wrong with your computer, or that you have won a prize in a contest you never entered, is trying to commit a crime with you as the victim. (Some reputable websites did legitimately warn visitors who were infected with the "DNSChanger" malware. That exception to this rule no longer applies.)
    • Pirated copies or "cracks" of commercial software, no matter where they come from, are unsafe.
    • Software of any kind downloaded from a BitTorrent or from a Usenet binary newsgroup is unsafe.
    • Software that purports to help you do something that's illegal or that infringes copyright, such as saving streamed audio or video for reuse without permission, is unsafe. All YouTube "downloaders" are outside the safe harbor, though not all are necessarily harmful.
    • Software with a corporate brand, such as Adobe Flash Player, must be downloaded directly from the developer’s website. If it comes from any other source, it's unsafe. For instance, if a web page warns you that Flash is out of date, do not follow an offered link to an update. Go to the Adobe website to download it, if you need it at all.
    • Even signed applications, no matter what the source, should not be trusted if they do something unexpected, such as asking for permission to access your contacts, your location, or the Internet for no obvious reason.
    • "FREE WI-FI !!!" networks in public places are unsafe unless you can verify that the network is not a trap (which you probably can't.) Even then, do not download any software or transmit any private information while connected to such a network, regardless of where it seems to come from or go to.
    6. Java on the Web (not to be confused with JavaScript, to which it's not related, despite the similarity of the names) is a weak point in the security of any system. Java is, among other things, a platform for running complex applications in a web page, on the client. That was always a bad idea, and Java's developers have proven themselves incapable of implementing it without also creating a portal for malware to enter. Past Java exploits are the closest thing there has ever been to a Windows-style virus affecting OS X. Merely loading a page with malicious Java content could be harmful.
    Fortunately, client-side Java on the Web is obsolete and mostly extinct. Only a few outmoded sites still use it. Try to hasten the process of extinction by avoiding those sites, if you have a choice. Forget about playing games or other non-essential uses of Java.
    Java is not included in OS X 10.7 and later. Discrete Java installers are distributed by Apple and by Oracle (the developer of Java.) Don't use either one unless you need it. Most people don't. If Java is installed, disable itnot JavaScript — in your browsers.
    Regardless of version, experience has shown that Java on the Web can't be trusted. If you must use a Java applet for a task on a specific site, enable Java only for that site in Safari. Never enable Java for a public website that carries third-party advertising. Use it only on well-known, login-protected, secure websites without ads. In Safari 6 or later, you'll see a lock icon in the address bar with the abbreviation "https" when visiting a secure site.

    Follow the above guidelines, and you’ll be as safe from malware as you can practically be. The rest of this comment concerns what you should not do to protect yourself.

    7. Never install any commercial "anti-virus" or "Internet security" products for the Mac, as they all do more harm than good, if they do any good at all. Any database of known threats is always going to be out of date. Most of the danger is from unknown threats. If you need to be able to detect Windows malware in your files, use one of the free anti-virus products in the Mac App Store — nothing else.
    Why shouldn't you use commercial "anti-virus" products?
    • Their design is predicated on the nonexistent threat that malware may be injected at any time, anywhere in the file system. Malware is downloaded from the network; it doesn't materialize from nowhere.
    • In order to meet that nonexistent threat, the software modifies or duplicates low-level functions of the operating system, which is a waste of resources and a common cause of instability, bugs, and poor performance.
    • To recognize malware, the software depends on a database of known threats, which is always at least a day out of date. Most of the real danger comes from highly targeted "zero-day" attacks that are not yet recognized.
    • By modifying the operating system, the software itself may create weaknesses that could be exploited by malware attackers.
    8. An anti-malware product from the App Store, such as "ClamXav," doesn't have these drawbacks. That doesn't mean it's entirely safe. It may report email messages that have "phishing" links in the body, or Windows malware in attachments, as infected files, and offer to delete or move them. Doing so will corrupt the Mail database. The messages should be deleted from within the Mail application.
    An anti-virus app is not needed, and should not be relied upon, for protection against OS X malware. It's useful only for detecting Windows malware. Windows malware can't harm you directly (unless, of course, you use Windows.) Just don't pass it on to anyone else.
    A Windows malware attachment in email is usually easy to recognize. The file name will often be targeted at people who aren't very bright; for example:
    Anti-virus software may be able to tell you which particular trojan it is, but do you care? In practice, there's seldom a reason to use the software unless an institutional policy requires it.
    The ClamXav developer won't try to "upsell" you to a paid version of the product. Other developers may do that. Don't be upsold. For one thing, you should not pay to protect Windows users from the consequences of their choice of computing platform. For another, a paid upgrade from a free app will probably have the disadvantages mentioned in section 7.
    9. It seems to be a common belief that the built-in Application Firewall acts as a barrier to infection, or prevents malware from functioning. It does neither. It blocks inbound connections to certain network services you're running, such as file sharing. It's disabled by default and you should leave it that way if you're behind a router on a private home or office network. Activate it only when you're on an untrusted network, for instance a public Wi-Fi hotspot, where you don't want to provide services. Disable any services you don't use in the Sharing preference pane. All are disabled by default.
    10. As a Mac user you don't have to live in fear that your computer may be infected every time you install software, read email, or visit a web page. But neither should you assume that you will always be safe from exploitation, no matter what you do. The greatest harm done by security software is precisely its selling point: it makes people feel safe. They may then feel safe enough to take risks from which the software doesn't protect them. Nothing can lessen the need for safe computing practices.
  • nick101 Level 5 Level 5 (4,160 points)

    Interesting to compare this reply (little evidence, unsupported assertions, wide generalisations, dogmatic tone, frequent use of loaded terms such as "lying", "fanboys" ...) with Linc Davis's reply (factual, evidenced, with citations, balanced)

  • Simon Slavin Level 4 Level 4 (1,400 points)

    Please describe the cirumstances under which an anti-virus package will help a Mac user running 10.8 or 10.9 who doesn't blindly give admin privs to everything they download.  Be specific.


    Malware which affects only Windows computers, and malware which will be caught by the Mac operating system without the help of additional an anti-virus package, don't count.

  • ezekielfromprt Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Dear Linc Davis


    I just read your very convincing& enlightening explanation as to why one should not use crapware.


    Thing is: i have used it many times: CCleaner, OnyX , AV (Sophos&Avast).


    When I first read your excellent and very sensible observations I deleted them all.


    My question: did the installation/uninstallation of these apps created vulnerabilities in my old iMac, running Snow Leopard (10.6.8)????


    If so, can I do anything to rectify it.


    I am an ignoramus on all things computer but I certainly trust your advice.


    I was thinking of installing ClamXav (not running any AV at the present time) to check if all is well. However, I am afraid that ClamXav may be a resource hog on my 2GB RAM.


    I havent had any probs with my computer, I should say, but "better safe than sorry."


    Many thanks.


  • John Galt Level 8 Level 8 (40,970 points)

    waqaskhizar wrote:


    do i need antivirus for my mac


    OS X already includes everything it needs to protect itself from viruses and malware. Keep it updated with software updates from Apple.


    A much better question is "how should I protect my Mac":


    • Never install any product that claims to "speed up", "clean up", "optimize", or "accelerate" your Mac. Without exception, they will do the opposite.
    • Never install pirated or "cracked" software, software obtained from dubious websites, or other questionable sources. Illegally obtained software is almost certain to contain malware.
    • Don’t supply your password in response to a popup window requesting it, unless you know what it is and the reason your credentials are required.
    • Don’t open email attachments from email addresses that you do not recognize, or click links contained in an email:
      • Most of these are scams that direct you to fraudulent sites that attempt to convince you to disclose personal information.
      • Such "phishing" attempts are the 21st century equivalent of a social exploit that has existed since the dawn of civilization. Don’t fall for it.
      • Apple will never ask you to reveal personal information in an email. If you receive an unexpected email from Apple saying your account will be closed unless you take immediate action, just ignore it. If your iTunes or App Store account becomes disabled for valid reasons, you will know when you try to buy something or log in to this support site, and are unable to.
    • Don’t install browser extensions unless you understand their purpose. Go to the Safari menu > Preferences > Extensions. If you see any extensions that you do not recognize or understand, simply click the Uninstall button and they will be gone.
    • Don’t install Java unless you are certain that you need it:
      • Java, a non-Apple product, is a potential vector for malware. If you are required to use Java, be mindful of that possibility.
      • Disable Java in Safari > Preferences > Security.
      • Despite its name JavaScript is unrelated to Java. No malware can infect your Mac through JavaScript. It’s OK to leave it enabled.
    • Block browser popups: Safari menu > Preferences > Security > and check "Block popup windows":
      • Popup windows are useful and required for some websites, but popups have devolved to become a common means to deliver targeted advertising that you probably do not want.
      • Popups themselves cannot infect your Mac, but many contain resource-hungry code that will slow down Internet browsing.
      • If you ever see a popup indicating it detected registry errors, that your Mac is infected with some ick, or that you won some prize, it is 100% fraudulent. Ignore it.
    • Ignore hyperventilating popular media outlets that thrive by promoting fear and discord with entertainment products arrogantly presented as "news". Learn what real threats actually exist and how to arm yourself against them:
      • The most serious threat to your data security is phishing. To date, most of these attempts have been pathetic and are easily recognized, but that is likely to change in the future as criminals become more clever.
      • OS X viruses do not exist, but intentionally malicious or poorly written code, created by either nefarious or inept individuals, is nothing new.
      • Never install something without first knowing what it is, what it does, how it works, and how to get rid of it when you don’t want it any more.
      • If you elect to use "anti-virus" software, familiarize yourself with its limitations and potential to cause adverse effects, and apply the principle immediately preceding this one.
      • Most such utilities will only slow down and destabilize your Mac while they look for viruses that do not exist, conveying no benefit whatsoever - other than to make you "feel good" about security, when you should actually be exercising sound judgment, derived from accurate knowledge, based on verifiable facts.
    • Do install updates from Apple as they become available. No one knows more about Macs and how to protect them than the company that builds them.


    Summary: Use common sense and caution when you use your Mac, just like you would in any social context. There is no product, utility, or magic talisman that can protect you from all the evils of mankind.

  • jaygatsby1123 Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    Certain institutions, especially state universities, often require Windows PCs and Macs alike to install and maintain antivirus in order to access the Internet on their network.


    So I tether to my iPhone for Internet.

  • John Galt Level 8 Level 8 (40,970 points)

    Certain institutions, especially state universities, often require Windows PCs and Macs alike to install and maintain antivirus in order to access the Internet on their network.


    Correct, and what they fail to realize is this


    OS X already includes everything it needs to protect itself from viruses and malware.  Keep it updated with software updates from Apple.