13 Replies Latest reply: May 1, 2014 11:39 AM by peter_watt
tkames Level 1 (0 points)

What anti virus protection works effectively with Mavericks?

MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2013), Mac OS 9.2.x
  • QuickTimeKirk Level 9 (52,237 points)

    For the most part none is needed.

  • arthur Level 5 (5,155 points)

    This is a hotly debated topic, but my own preference is not to use any third-party AV software with Mavericks. Reasons:

    1. Mavericks already has anti-malware protection built in.
    2. Macs are not PCs, and Mavericks is not Windows. It's not like there is absolutely no Malware for Macs out there, but compared to PCs, there's almost none.
    3. I used to use AV software on my Macs (ClamX and at another time Sophos), but they both started to create problems, i.e., they started consuming huge amounts of processor resources and slowed my Macs down.
    4. Neither AV app I tried ever found any actual malware anyway, but were good at finding false positives and wasting my time.
    5. Since I got rid of AV software my Macs have been problem-free.
    6. It is more important to be careful where you go online and what you download. Avoid pirated software and sketchy sites and emails, and keep up with Mac security updates and OS updates, and you'll be fine.
    7. There is some risk with using AV software in that by definition a new malware threat is still going to be a threat until the AV developer becomes aware of the threat and then issues and update to address the threat. So in that interval AV software won't protect you anyway.
    8. there is a good discussion here: The Safe Mac » Mac Malware Guide : Do I need anti-virus software?
  • Joe M Level 1 (90 points)

    Personally I like Bitdefender that you can find in the App Store.  I use the Free version and have been using it for about 2 years.  It works fine with Mavericks.  It's strickly passive, i.e., it does not run unless you launch it and tell it to run.  Therefore it does not interfer with any Mavericks routines or any other programs.  You do not have to disable it when you install Mavericks or any other software as it's just another app at that point and not running in the background.  I usually run it at night when not much else is going on and it takes about 2 hours to finish, though you can run it any time you want.  Run time will depend on the size of your hard drive.  It has found virus/malware in my software before.  The malware that it has found has always been found in Mail and is a PC virus contained in a piece of email.


    OS X does a great job of protecting your system but may not always see malware contained in an email attachment.  It does not interfer with Macericks, it has found malware on my machine before, and it gives me piece of mind.

  • peter_watt Level 3 (910 points)

    tkames wrote:


    What anti virus protection works effectively with Mavericks?

    None. Absolutely none.

  • Barney-15E Level 8 (46,334 points)

    I prefer to just use my brain.

    However, if you feel yours isn't up to the task, take a look at thomas' Mac Malware Guide: http://www.thesafemac.com/mmg/

  • Linc Davis Level 10 (192,957 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 your computer, or who has been able to log in to it remotely. 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. Internally Apple calls it "XProtect."
    The malware recognition database used by XProtect is automatically updated; 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.
    Apple has so far failed to revoke the codesigning certificates of some known abusers, thereby diluting the value of Gatekeeper and the Developer ID program. These failures don't involve App Store products, however.
    For the reasons given, App Store products, and—to a lesser extent—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. Sandbox 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 are not, and never will be, complete protection. Malware is a problem of human behavior, and a technological fix is not going to solve it. Trusting software to protect you will only make you more vulnerable.
    The best 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 scam artists. If you're smarter than they think you are, you'll win. That means, in practice, that you always stay within a safe harbor of computing practices. How do you know when you're leaving the safe harbor? Below are some warning signs of danger.
    Software from an untrustworthy source
    • Software of any kind is distributed via BitTorrent. or Usenet, or on a website that also distributes pirated music or movies.
    • Software with a corporate brand, such as Adobe Flash Player, doesn't come directly from the developer’s website. Do not trust an alert from any website to update Flash, your browser, or anything else.
    • Rogue websites such as Softonic and CNET Download distribute free applications that have been packaged in a superfluous "installer."
    • The software is advertised by means of spam or intrusive web ads. Any ad, on any site, that includes a direct link to a download should be ignored.
    Software that is plainly illegal or does something illegal
    • High-priced commercial software such as Photoshop is "cracked" or "free."
    • An application helps you to infringe copyright, for instance by circumventing the copy protection on commercial software, or saving streamed media for reuse without permission.
    Conditional or unsolicited offers from strangers
    • A telephone caller or a web page tells you that you have a “virus” and offers to help you remove it. (Some reputable websites did legitimately warn visitors who were infected with the "DNSChanger" malware. That exception to this rule no longer applies.)
    • A web site offers free content such as video or music, but to use it you must install a “codec,” “plug-in,” "player," "downloader," "extractor," or “certificate” that comes from that same site, or an unknown one.
    • You win a prize in a contest you never entered.
    • Someone on a message board such as this one is eager to help you, but only if you download an application of his choosing.
    • A "FREE WI-FI !!!" network advertises itself in a public place such as an airport, but is not provided by the management.
    • Anything online that you would expect to pay for is "free."
    Unexpected events
    • You open what you think is a document and get an alert that it's "an application downloaded from the Internet." Click Cancel and delete the file. Even if you don't get the alert, you should still delete any file that isn't what you expected it to be.
    • An application does something you don't expect, such as asking for permission to access your contacts, your location, or the Internet for no obvious reason.
    • Software is attached to email that you didn't request, even if it comes (or seems to come) from someone you trust.
    I don't say that leaving the safe harbor just once will necessarily result in disaster, but making a habit of it will weaken your defenses against malware attack. Any of the above scenarios should, at the very least, make you uncomfortable.
    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.

    Stay within the safe harbor, 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. If you need to be able to detect Windows malware in your files, use one of the free security apps in the Mac App Store—nothing else.
    Why shouldn't you use commercial "anti-virus" products?
    • To recognize malware, the software depends on a database of known threats, which is always at least a day out of date. Research has shown that most successful attacks are "zero-day"—that is, previously unknown. Recognition-based malware scanners do not defend against such attacks.
    • 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.
    • By modifying the operating system, the software itself may create weaknesses that could be exploited by malware attackers.
    • Most importantly, a false sense of security makes you more vulnerable.
    8. An anti-malware product from the App Store, such as "ClamXav," has the same drawback as the commercial suites of being always out of date, but it does not inject code into the operating system. That doesn't mean it's entirely harmless. 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 cannot be relied upon, for protection against OS X malware. It's useful only for detecting Windows malware, and even for that use it's not really effective, because new Windows malware is emerging much faster than OS X 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 by the file name alone. An actual example:
    London Terror Moovie.avi [124 spaces] Checked By Norton Antivirus.exe
    You don't need any software to tell you that's a Windows trojan. Software may be able to tell you which trojan it is, but who cares? In practice, there's seldom a reason to use recognition software unless an institutional policy requires it. Windows malware is so widespread that you should assume it's in every unknown email attachment until proven otherwise. Nevertheless, ClamXav or a similar product from the App Store may be useful if an ill-informed network administrator says you must run some kind of "anti-virus" application.
    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 all 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.
  • Joe M Level 1 (90 points)

    Thanks for the informative writeup Linc Davis. You know your stuff!  I will still run Bitdefender now and then not so much for the reason that it makes me over confident or that I feel overly safe but because it has come up with a couple PC Trojans in the form of Trojan.Generic.  They wouldn't hurt my Mac but would surely infect my sister's PC.  My primary concern is passing the Trojan on to my sister or other PC user by forwarding such email without knowing what's in the attachment.  I also use an EICAR test file every so often to test Bitdefender.  Without fail, it always finds the file.

  • Barney-15E Level 8 (46,334 points)

    If you think you must, BitDefender is middle-of-the-road: http://www.thesafemac.com/mac-anti-virus-testing-2014/

  • Joe M Level 1 (90 points)



    Excellent article.  Thank you for the post.  As I pointed out, my primary concern has been passing malware on to my sister or other PC users.  The author of the article makes a valid point in support of my use of Bitdefender for doing this.  In his Conclusions, he states, "If your primary goal is to use anti-virus software to catch malware for other systems, so as to avoid passing it on, then this testing is not particularly relevant."


    Bitdefender may be middle-of-the-road AV software as far as his testing went but it has done me good in the past by detecting PC Trojans that were attached to email sent to me by a 3rd party.  The OP asked the question "What anit virus protection works effectively with Mavericks?" My answer is simple.  Bitdefender has worked for me for how I use it.


    Your answer directed towards my comments somewhat lambast me.  You are allowed to have your opinion just as I'm allowed to have mine.


    For the OP:  It's up to you.  Barney has provided an excellent link above and if nothing else, it is interesting reading.  Linc Davis has provided you with an excellent response as well.  As you can see, it's AV software for Mac is a varied topic and produces a variety of responses.  If you do nothing, your computer will probably be as safe as it would be if you spent the money for the best Mac AV software available.

  • Barney-15E Level 8 (46,334 points)

    No lambasting at all.  It performed as it performed. It is what it is.

  • thomas_r. Level 7 (30,749 points)

    Bitdefender may be middle-of-the-road AV software as far as his testing went but it has done me good in the past by detecting PC Trojans that were attached to email sent to me by a 3rd party.


    If that is what tkames is looking for his/her anti-virus software to do, then it may be a good choice. However, for anyone looking to protect themselves against Mac malware, there are better options.

  • Joe M Level 1 (90 points)

    Thank you for all your diligent testing and posting your results, Thomas.  I've read your posts on The Safe Mac for some time.  You gave Bitdefender a "passing grade" so it can't be all that bad! I do realize that there are other softwares that are probably better.  You also stated, "However, it is important to keep in mind that Mac OS X already does an admirable job of protecting against malware. At this time, there is no known malware capable of infecting a Mac running a properly-updated version of Mac OS X 10.6 or later, with all security settings left at the default (at a minimum)."  With that in mind, one could conclude that any one of the AV softwares that you tested could be used and a system could be safe from malware not due to the AV software but due to the OS.  This too could lead some to make false assumptions regarding their choice of AV software.  MacScan got a 2% detection rating but because it found something, one may conclude that it is doing its job when in fact it is the OS that prevented most malware from entering the system.  I use MacScan on a regular basis, not to look for viruses but to remove some tracking cookies and to clean out caches.  I know your sentiments regarding MacScan but I got mine on a day it was being given away for Free so I am not out any money for the product and I don't feel cheated.


    In the past I have used several of the other softwares that you tested and settled on Bitdefender because, as I stated before, it has done me some good.  When I tried avast! it kept coming up with false positives.  I spent three weeks emailing back and forth sending my results to avast! and at their own admission what I was seeing were FP or false positives.   When I see false positives, it makes me wonder what else is going on and if real positives are being missed in the detection process.  I did not see the false positives using Bitdefender when testing the exact same software.


    In your Mac Malware Guide you make the statement "Those who just want something that will do manual scans of selected files would also do well with Dr. Web Light, available for free in the App Store." Dr. Web Light 6.0.6 still has the problem of locking the computer up if the computer sleeps and requires a password to wake, while the software is running, though the writeup in the App Store claims that issue is fixed.  It's not fixed or other issues are going on that the manufacturer isn’t addressing.  You score Dr. Web Light fairly high with a 95% detection rating. That is great but I don't want it if it locksup my computer in the process of looking for malware.


    Thanks again for your response and all the testing you have done.  You serve the Mac community well.

  • peter_watt Level 3 (910 points)

    Thomas's website is very informative and a lot of work has gone into it, but it then fails to state the obvious conclusion that no antivirus tools are necessary.