Historically Apple products have been significantly safer than Windows and other devices when it comes to cybersecurity threats such as virus and malware, so anyone with an Apple Mac could rely on its built-in defences. However, as the number of Apple computers rises, so does the amount of effort put in by cyber criminals to develop ways of infecting these devices. A common myth is that most malware is designed to target windows devices, and their Apple devices are immune. This is far from true.

Similarly to Windows Defender, macOS does have its own built-in protection, including:

  • Gatekeeper

Apple closely monitor their app store and have strict rules for what they will and won’t allow on it. Apple wants any program that is installed onto MacOS to be digitally signed to prove the legitimacy and safety of it. This means that any software they detect that hasn’t been approved by themselves can either be blocked or have a warning message displayed to inform users of this.

  • XProtect

This is Apple’s inbuilt anti-malware program. It runs in the background and will check files against a database of known threats when they are downloaded to make sure it is safe.

So, if macOS has these methods, then why do I also need a third-party antivirus program?

While Apple’s “Gatekeeper” is good, it has been bypassed before. Cyber criminals have configured their software to mimic the digital signature used by a previously approved developer to trick machines into allowing it to be installed.

XProtect also has its downsides. Whilst the database is regularly updated, it only looks for known threats, whereas programs like ESET will constantly update and look for new and unknown ones.

According to reports by Malwarebytes, there was a 400% increase in Mac malware in 2019 compared to 2018 and the number of serious malware attacks found on Macs increased by 61% from 2019 to 2020 and, at the same times, less harmful malware attacks declined. This shows attacks are increasing in both prevalence and seriousness.

How do I know if some malware has gotten through my macOS defences?

There are a few ways you can tell whether your Mac has been infected:

  • Unexpected popups or notifications appearing even if you aren’t browsing or online
  • Your Mac is running slower than normal quite suddenly
  • You have noticed some programs installed that you don’t recognise or remember getting
  • When you go onto websites, you get redirected to different pages than what you had clicked on

In conclusion, whilst it’s true that macOS has stronger built-in security than most other operating systems and Apple do put effort into keeping their machines secure, focus is being placed on exploiting these devices now more than ever. Apple are a software and hardware company so they can’t put all their time on developing security programs. There are always vulnerabilities and having another third-party program will help in reducing these as much as possible, and help to keep you safe.

If you would like to learn more about antivirus programs and if you need them for your Mac, here are some useful pages: https://www.eset.com/uk/antivirus-for-macos/benefits-of-protection/

Do Macs Have Built-in Antivirus?