Is antivirus compulsory for Mac?

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Traditionally, the Mac has been seen as a safe and stable environment compared to other computing systems especially Windows and a general line of thought has been that Apple machines do not require antivirus protections as protection is already strong enough and threats are fairly rare.

Yet is that really valid today? Most definitely, the following argument is not,

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Mac risks may have once been much lighter on the ground than ransomware threatening other operating systems, but that’s no longer the case. Only a brief glance at the latest health study should inform you all.

Malwarebytes reported in the recent annual report outlining the new ‘malware situation’ that during the course of 2019, Mac attacks rose by 400 percent year-on-year, and for the first time ever, more attacks were detected per endpoint (i.e. Mac) than for Windows computers. If some numbers make Mac users calm back and reflect on the protection aspect, it’s a shock that there were 11 attacks per endpoint relative to 5.8 for Windows, that is, about twice the number for Apple computers.

The dramatic headline isn’t the whole story, however. The major drawback here is that a lot of ransomware is already being aimed at Windows PCs, with Mac targeting of adware and possibly unauthorized programs (PUPs) or ‘malware medium’ than Malwarebytes dubs it. Such kinds of attempts are not quite as extreme or harmful as the full-fat ransomware out there, but they may definitely be annoying in at least some situations, hijacking your computer, modifying your default search engine, or even delivering supported results to the advantage of the publisher. Of note, we must always keep in mind that this is only one article, so it is unwise to put too much focus on this one source in isolation. Nonetheless, we’ve also noticed a steady trickle of Mac malware stories entering the news. Witness, for example, the recent revelation of a new Mac ransomware strain (the first such sighting in about four years).

And, despite this, and the recent rise in Mac attacks obviously related to Apple’s increasingly common computers, anybody who has been watching all this is likely to have been more worried about Mac protection, and understandable.

Given these can risks, you might well ask: why isn’t my Mac built to be safe anyway? It is accurate that MacOS is intended to be highly stable, and to this end, Apple is introducing a range of steps inside the operating system. The company implements functionality such as XProtect antivirus security and the likes of Gatekeeper, ensuring that all software is digitally certified (or notarized, that is, reviewed by Apple for problems or malicious code). There’s no question that the degree of protection offered by Apple is excellent – but still, these mechanisms aren’t foolproof, and we’ve seen methods to get through Gatekeeper in the past, or efforts to cheat users and thwart the built-in protections. However, as Malwarebytes points out, Apple’s advanced protection mechanisms aren’t that effective at picking up the ‘malware free’ attempts we’ve listed above. As the protection firm states, “macOS’ built-in protection mechanisms have not cracked down on adware and PUPs to the same degree as they have ransomware, leaving the way open for these questionable programs to enter.” And as we’ve mentioned, such ‘borderline’ apps might not cause your machine mayhem like a typical piece of malware, but you definitely don’t want that sort of stuff to stick around on your Computer.

Do you need a Mac antivirus?
If you weigh it up, despite the amount of Mac malware – albeit not as extreme as malware targeting Windows, and the likelihood of vulnerabilities trying to get past Apple’s (albeit good), Safety, there is definitely a compelling reason to back up the core security offered by macOS with a second layer of safety in the form of an antivirus. – Adapted from Techradar

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