Do You Use Anti-Malware Software On Your Mac?

With the recent increased threat from the Flashback trojan malware, a new spotlight is shining on Mac anti-malware security. Flashback usually appears in as a downloadable trojan, requiring the user to download, run and give permission to install. But for a few days there was a Java exploit that installed it on some Macs without requiring permission. Apple then issued a patch to prevent that.
Some believe that you should use 3rd-party security software as protection. But that software needs updates to remain effective as well. MacMost has always taught that keeping updated, informed and watching what you download is all that is required for protection.
What do you think? Do you use third-part software for protection? Has the recent issue changed your mind one way or the other?

Comments: 38 Responses to “Do You Use Anti-Malware Software On Your Mac?”

    4/10/12 @ 4:03 pm

    I use Avast! I hadn’t received any alerts but I had to turn off the mail shield part of it because it was giving me tons of unnecessary alarms.

    Greg Howland
    4/10/12 @ 4:14 pm

    I have used VirusBarrier since 2009.

    Tom Hoole
    4/10/12 @ 5:31 pm


    4/10/12 @ 6:57 pm

    Been using my MacBook (black) since 2007 and have never loaded virus software nor had a problem with viruses. Same holds true with my 21.5 iMac (bought when they launched)…but I do run software updates routinely.

    Simon David Allen
    4/10/12 @ 7:23 pm

    I don’t use anti-malware but I am considering it.

    Keeping updated does not help if Apple does not keep users’ 3rd party software updated. The Java exploit used by the Flashback trojan was plugged months ago on Windows machines but Apple was negligent in not updating it for Apple’s Java users until it became a problem. Similarly Apple users now do not get Flash updates at all.

    Apple needs to take security more seriously otherwise it will lose its hard earned reputation of being more secure than Windows.

      4/10/12 @ 8:49 pm

      Damn, I can’t agree more, Apple need to stay on top of things, because this is the reason why I left Windows, back in the day…

      4/11/12 @ 11:58 am

      I agreed 200% with Simon’s comment.

    4/11/12 @ 11:51 am

    I use Sophos Home Edition (free) and Bitdefender (free from Apple store). I also agree 100% Simon’s comment. I like my MacBook Air but I just don’t trust Apple’s security and public opinion about “Mac does not get Virus” !

      Jerry Holt
      4/13/12 @ 9:22 am

      Yes, After using Apple Scripts to be sure I wasn’t presently infected, I decided to install Sophos Home Edition (free). I also reinstalled my OS just to be safe and all seems to be running fine on my 3+ year-old iMac.

    4/11/12 @ 10:07 pm

    It’s funny how the world is quick to harp on Apple for a measly little piece of Malware “” just as they did a year or so ago with Mac Defender. Where as Windows is infection central. Now malware created for the Mac is bound to happen form time to time. But OS X is a very, very secure system although it’s not bullet proof. I think it also comes down to the user keeping it maintained via enabling the proper security features, keeping everything up to date and of course following the rules of safe computing (which most people do not). I personally don’t use AV software for the Mac and have followed these steps which is keeping me safe from these Malware baddies. So I am in agreeance with Gary on this one. You don’t need AV software if you’re careful. Still Apple might deserve the scrutiny this time around for handling things so clumsily.

      4/12/12 @ 8:44 am

      Well to be quite honest, you don’t need AV programs for Windows based machines either, if you are careful what sites you visit and only always download from trusted sites.

    Ian Maitland
    4/12/12 @ 8:39 am

    I’m puzzled – glad to see the debate – not using anything at present on Mac. If Apple does not take the issue seriously, then we have a problem.

    4/12/12 @ 8:41 am

    I believe the need for protection for Mac users will increase as Macs increase in popularity. Right now, Macs are one of the hottest selling computers on the market and to be quite honest, if I was out to attack anyone right now, it would be OS X based systems. Why? Because the whole arrogance of the Mac user community (we don’t need any additional software protection) and to prove they are just as vulnerable to attack as Windows based PCs. It is going to get worse before it gets better.

    Richard B
    4/12/12 @ 8:47 am

    As Apple becomes more popular (and rightly so), the virus writers will start “having a go” so it makes sense to take precautions however unlikely an infection is. Two attacks in a year, nothing compared to Microsoft, but hey, prevention is better than cure. I use the free Sophos software.

    4/12/12 @ 9:03 am

    I’ve used Virusbarrier since I bought my first Mac a few years ago (coming from Windows getting protection software is just the first thing you do)

    Mac C.
    4/12/12 @ 9:28 am

    I’ve tried several anti-virus programs over the years – Norton (long ago), ClamXav, VirusBarrier. I did not like the impact on CPU and questioned the effectiveness of all of them. However, I’m now using Sophos Anti-Virius. It’s impressive. Very low CPU usage, fast and very up-to-date virus updating.

      Mac C.
      4/12/12 @ 9:28 am

      AND, Sophos is free!

    Judy Wheeler
    4/12/12 @ 9:44 am

    I certainly appreciate the information in the MacMost Newsletter. It has been so helpful! Thank you!!!

    4/12/12 @ 10:15 am

    Gary, it seems a bit unusual for you to do a posting like this. Are you thinking that this infection may be a hint of things to come? And the methods you’ve always championed about keeping the Mac infection free without AV software, are in fact now outdated? And that maybe it’s time for Mac users to start using AV software? Did you also do this posting to get feedback in deciding if you should go in the direction of encouraging Mac users to use AV software? I’m not being cynical here, just curios. You obviously are an expert on the Mac and probably more so then anybody reading this post (or leaving comments). What’s your take on this?

      4/12/12 @ 10:24 am

      A while ago I started this Tuesday item “Hot Topics.” The idea is to let everyone voice opinions about things that are getting a lot of attention in the Apple/tech news world. The Flashback trojan was certainly the hottest topic of the week, so it was obvious that I should choose it as the point of discussion.
      No other reason. No hidden agenda.
      My personal opinion is:
      1. Flashback is dangerous, but it is still a trojan, so not nearly as dangerous as a virus which would spread itself.
      2. Flashback is easily defended against. The Java exploit was a bit more dangerous as it didn’t require your permission to install, but you still had to visit a malicious web site. And I never saw a single report of an actual web site mentioned. Plus, Flashback is very easy to detect and remove.
      3. Apple responded just as quickly as the anti-malware software vendors (did they even respond, I can’t find any mention of that). So Apple and OS X by itself were still just as good as having anti-malware software. Even if infected, no special software is need to detect and remove.
      4. Following my three rules (keep up-to-date, stay informed, don’t install something you don’t trust) were still the most effective way to deal with this threat.
      5. I have mixed feelings about anti-malware vendors because they market a product based on fear. I don’t doubt that they have legitimate uses, especially with Windows, but I have a hard time with them.
      I keep this page updated with advice on how to protect your Mac:

    4/12/12 @ 10:20 am

    I always have and always will use 3rd party anti-virus & malware protection software. Never be so naive and believe that an Apple product cannot ever be infected. That is simply another Apple marketing technique which apparently consumers blindly believe.

    Dave B.
    4/12/12 @ 10:25 am

    My question to people who have been using anti-virus and malware is what have you found? Have you ever actually been affected/infected?

      4/12/12 @ 10:31 am

      Hi Dave, yes, MacMini and iMac both infected about 2 years ago by a Trojan. Luckily, Intego Virus Barrier caught it, quarantined it and saved both machines.

    4/12/12 @ 10:33 am

    It all depends on what risky habits you enjoy. Like anything in life, if you play it safe you’ll be safe for the most part. If you like hang gliding (i.e. downloading s/w from questionable sources) you better have a health plan or extra funds stashed away in the event of a crash.

      4/12/12 @ 10:40 am

      Exactly, Henry! ;-)

    4/12/12 @ 11:27 am

    BitDefender, basically for peace of mind. It’s worth it.

    4/12/12 @ 4:46 pm

    I’ve always accepted the view that ‘keeping updated, informed and watching what you download’ is all that is required for protection and have never considered using 3rd-party security software until recently. I’ve now decided I’d rather be safe than sorry and am using the free Sophos software.

    4/12/12 @ 4:51 pm

    I never use any other security programs…for some reason however, my Mac does not download Apple updates automatically even tho I have set up my computer to do so.

    4/12/12 @ 7:00 pm

    The apple has a worm in it.

    4/12/12 @ 10:52 pm

    I just use my computer and don’t worry about nasties anymore since I switch to Apple.
    I also don’t visit dodgy sites or download unsolicited programs or click on those bouncy “win an iPad deals” (sheesh!)
    I run a pc for photo imaging but it doesn’t see the internet.
    If my Apples were going to start getting bombarded with virus like Pc’s then I’ll get a Pc. They do have better program support.

    4/12/12 @ 11:32 pm

    So Gary, I am just curios. Do you use the three main 3rd party applications (i.e. Adobe Flash, Java Runtime and Office 2011 for Mac) that most Mac users have installed? If yes, have you ever had any vulnerability or any type of security issue period with them when following your own methods?

      4/13/12 @ 6:41 am

      I use all three. No issues. Most reports are: “there is a vulnerability, and here’s the update.” So you hear them and think “danger” but the fix is there before there is any real danger. With Flash, the problem is often not Flash at all, but some installer claiming it is Flash (it could claim it is anything, Flash is just a popular installer).

    4/13/12 @ 5:35 am

    On my old MacBook I installed iAntivirus as it was recommend from the apple genius’ for peace of mind and it never found anything and slowed my computer right up and then same occured for my parents iMac. With my new MacBook Pro I haven’t installed anything and are just following the same steps as MacMost, and many others sites, suggest. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if OS X Mountian Lion’s security features will have any affect and if apple’s releases any extra security features as a result of the increasing number of threats.

    Trevor J.
    4/13/12 @ 7:01 am

    Very nice discussion left in the comments. I’m no stranger to viruses; my pc used to get infected all the time. Usually to the point where I had to ComboFix it. My MBP has never had any problem like that. Honestly, it’s just a scare. You can’t expect boneheads to not try and develop a virus; it’s going to happen. We should be lucky that Apple can catch and patch it so quickly. I don’t run any antivirus software because I’ve never used one that updated fast enough. Even when I googled, “Macs no longer virus free,” I was left with links from the scare in 2006. I don’t plan on getting antitrust software, and I don’t plan on leaving Apple products. It’s just a user error; be safe.

      Trevor J.
      4/13/12 @ 7:02 am

      Antivirus* where did trust come from?

    4/16/12 @ 8:25 pm

    Well it is April 16th. My husbands desktop PC has a virus – virus program didn’t help. SuperGeeks loves it!

    His laptop cannot download the latest updates. Very normal for Win 7 64 bit. Just know this is going to cost another $156. at SuperGeeks.

    I have an iMac – keep it updated – and use common sense as Gary says.

    4/26/12 @ 11:54 am

    Gary, I’ve got my own company. But I have all of my employees use iMacs (no PC’s whatsoever). Plus, I do all of the updating and security settings on the computers myself, nor do I allow my employees to do anything that could compromise the security of our systems. The things is though, I don’t use Anti-Virus software. But because I am dealing with confidential client information (i.e. SSN, Credit Cards, etc.). Should I consider installing AV software as an extra pre-caution because I am dealing with sensitive info, if yes what AV software would you recommend? Or am I still safe by utilizing only the security settings within the Mac?

      4/26/12 @ 12:21 pm

      I don’t see how AV software would help you in that case. Is the thought that some virus would appear that would infect machines and then send private data to someone? Nothing like that exists for Mac.
      I’d be much more worried about weak passwords and online security.
      I’m sure you already know most of this, but here is my guide:

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