The Practical Guide To Mac Security: Part 9, Do You Need Anti-Virus Software?

Check out the rest of the videos in this special course: The Practical Guide To Mac Security.


You don't need third-party anti-virus software on your Mac. In fact, your Mac already comes with anti-malware software as part of macOS.

Comments: 19 Responses to “The Practical Guide To Mac Security: Part 9, Do You Need Anti-Virus Software?”

    Charlie Johnson
    4 months ago

    Gary
    Your instructions are: “So I want to quickly show you where you can check to make sure that XProtect and MRT are being updated. You go into System Preferences, go into Software Update and then go to Advanced and here you’ll see Install System Data Files and Security Updates. Make sure that is checked.”

    I have Mac OS 10.13.6 and my System Preferences does not include a “Software Update” button. Where should I look?

    4 months ago

    Charlie: You are on a much older version of macOS. Off the top of my head I can’t remember where they are on that version. Any reason you haven’t updated (also an important security practice). Maybe check in the App Store app? Though I don’t think you’ve got the checkboxes there.

    Timothy Pawsey
    4 months ago

    Hi Gary, How about detecting emails which might be attempting to install malware? I’ve been using Avast (mainly for the VPN). It seems to be quite good at catching phishing emails. However, agreed, it rarely finds anything in the system scans. Any thoughts?

    Charlie Johnson
    4 months ago

    Gary: Thanks-that’s what I thought. This iMac is a mid-2010 model and though I have max’d the memory and shifted to a SSD, there is not enough processor power to go any further than 10.13.6. I guess I am going to have to upgrade.

    Bernard Cawley
    4 months ago

    Gary, I’m still on High Sierra (as Charlie is) because going to something more recent breaks 32-bit apps and I have a couple of specialized ones that have not been updated. Maybe that’s why he’s still there as well…

    Richard
    4 months ago

    Hi Gary, Thanks for all the tutorials. You say the “average home user” does not need anti-virus. I am a home user and help run a club and use MS Office on my Mac and share MS Word and Excel with the club Windows users. You say most AV products search for Windows virus/malware so in my case I think I am correct in running an AV product, both for protecting mine and other club members from Windows viruses. Do you agree?

    4 months ago

    Timothy: To protect against malware that comes in an email message, simply never run an app or installer that comes to you in an email message. Apps can’t install without your permission.

    4 months ago

    Bernard: Which 32-bit apps are you using in 2021? If a developer hasn’t updated the app at this point, they probably are never going to. I would replace that app ASAP. Think about it: if your old Mac failed now (stolen, damaged, etc) you’d get a new one and that wouldn’t be able to run 32-bit apps. Find another solution now while you can transition instead of being put in a tight spot later.

    4 months ago

    Richard: Just because you use an app (Office) that also has a Windows version doesn’t mean it is insecure. Just using Office for Mac isn’t a problem and wouldn’t mean you’d need to run an AV app.

    Kym
    4 months ago

    Many thanks Gary, my Mac slowed right down when I installed the anti-virus, fixed now. Should I do the same for my iOS devices?

    Bernard Cawley
    4 months ago

    Gary, the main app that’s been holding me up is one called Perfectflite Datacap – it is for downloading, plotting and exporting flight data from their recording altimeters used in model rockets. While I take a cheap Windows laptop to the field for this purpose, I like being able to reload saved files and generate plots from the app here on the Mac (which is a 2016 15-inch MBP) as it is my preferred workstation. There is no “replacement” app, per se, for this. That said, I get your points.

    Lucas Hutton
    4 months ago

    Every few months, I run across an article in reputable publications—PC Magazine, for example—that lays out lots of reasons why Macs need third-party antivirus protection. I fell for that stuff once—several years ago—and I observed a big performance hit on my MacBook Pro. I haven’t used any of that stuff since then. Articles such as the recent one in PC Magazine’s newsletter made me question my decision, but along comes Gary’s timely article. Thanks, Gary, for keeping us straight!

    4 months ago

    Kym: There is no such thing as anti-virus for iOS. Each app is restricted in what it can access, so no “anti-virus app” could possibly know what else you have going on. Maybe you have some “security app” you are using? I consider them a waste of money because they don’t do much, but they shouldn’t slow down your iOS device.

    4 months ago

    Lucas: I often find myself shaking my head at those kinds of articles. They still repeat myths about security, batteries, and other computer things that changed decades ago.

    Richard
    4 months ago

    Gary Rosenzweig said
    Richard: Just because you use an app (Office) that also has a Windows version doesn’t mean it is insecure. Just using Office for Mac isn’t a problem and wouldn’t mean you’d need to run an AV app.

    Thanks. I appreciate my Mac is not at risk, I was thinking if I receive an infected MS Office file from my Windows colleagues, I could pass that on to another Windows colleague so running an AV would prevent transmission to my Widows friends. Does that make sense?

    4 months ago

    Richard: I think the proper way to handle that would be for AV software on their end to catch it. If their only line of defense was that it happened to pass through your Mac first, then they will probably end up getting it anyway. But I don’t think this sort of thing happens today anyway.

    Lucas Hutton
    4 months ago

    I use a fully updated MacBook Pro, but I use Parallels to run Windows 10 and all the Office 365 apps. Do you see any potential for malware getting through with my setup?

    4 months ago

    Lucas: On the Mac side, no. On Windows, you’d probably want to take precautions (as a Windows pro). But why are you doing such a convoluted thing to use Office? Just use the Office for Mac apps. I think your subscription will even work so you don’t need to buy anything extra.

    Lucas Hutton
    4 months ago

    Yes, I can use Office on both sides. However, the Windows version of Word, for one example, is more robust than Word for Mac. The Mac version of Office does not have Microsoft Access, Publisher, and others.

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