Apple claims that its Mac computers are well protected by in-built antivirus features, and as long as you only use software from reliable sources, there is no need to worry about extra security. But how true is this, and should Mac users be taking more precautions?
The truth is, no computer can be completely immune to cyberattacks. Macs do have a big advantage over Windows, as there are far fewer of them — Windows PCs make up about 90% of the market. Therefore, cybercriminals are far more interested in making malware that is proficient at attacking Windows operating systems.
Apple does also deserve its reputation for high quality, secure products. A Mac that is running on the most up to date operating systems will be chock full of in-built tools such as XProtect, which automatically checks for malware apps without any maintenance or activation required from the user.
However, there are still gaps that can be exploited by the most determined of hackers. No list of malicious software can be completely comprehensive. It won’t always necessarily detect dormant viruses which are squatting in the hard drive. It is also still possible for legitimate apps that have been tampered with to get through the in-built security checks.
A Mac can be prone to viruses and malware for the same reasons Windows PCs pick them up. Clicking on fake pop-up ads warning your computer is infected with a virus is a classic example, as is clicking a link in an infected spam email, or opening an attachment. Downloading free apps from third-party websites always carries an element of risk.
Running out of date software will also leave a Mac vulnerable to malware. The most common threats include adware, which take control of the computer and track online activity and slow down operating speeds. PUPs are malicious programmes that are commonly bundled with other apps that have been downloaded.
Spyware is designed to access sensitive personal data, such as passwords, bank details, browsing history, etc. The data can then be used for identity theft or sold to third parties. Trojans can also gain access to personal data by masquerading as helpful or harmless apps which then steal data or download harmful malware.
Ransomware works by hijacking the entire operating system and encrypting files so they can’t be accessed. The cybercriminals will then typically demand payment in exchange for release. Ransomware commonly gains access through phishing emails, which are designed to trick the user into giving out personal information. It may be obvious if a Mac is infected with malware, because the user will be inundated with aggressive pop-up ads, even when offline. The device may run much slower than usual, or crash for no apparent reason. Browsers may freeze, or change homepage unexpectedly. Apps or files may appear which the user didn’t install themselves.
Sometimes, a Mac can be infected with a virus or malware and there will be no obvious signs at all, as many malicious programmes are designed to do just this.
In order ensure a Mac is completely safe from cyberattacks, it is advisable to use a security suite, just as a Windows user automatically would. With ever evolving and more sophisticated malware being created every day, using the most advanced security systems is the only way to protect data 100%.
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