In recent years, taking some necessary precautions to keep Mac computers safe from malware has become just as important as doing that for Windows computers. The big number of recently released Mac viruses has proven that it doesn’t matter whether you are using a Mac or a Windows computer – you could get attacked by malware viruses all the same.
In the following post, we will go over some important tips and precautions that will help you keep your Mac computer safe and secure.
What built-in protection does Mac offer?
The first thing you should know about Mac computers is that they already have a built-in security tool in place. This tool is called XProtect and it works in a similar way to Microsoft’s Windows Defender. This security feature is mainly tasked with preventing suspicious files and apps from getting downloaded and executed on the computer. XProtect has a pretty reliable database and detection abilities so, in most cases, it will notify you if a file/app that is trying to get downloaded and/or executed on your Mac may potentially expose your system to harm. However, the presence of this built-in defense on your Mac certainly does not mean you cannot get attacked. Here are a few “flaws” of XProtect that may allow malware to slip past it.
It doesn’t live-scan the computer. This protection feature only checks files and apps that are about to be downloaded or executed. However, it does not run active scans of the system to try to find malware. Therefore, if a malicious file somehow gets downloaded or opened (outdated database, ignored security warning), XProtect would no longer keep you protected from it.
It is not foolproof. Depending on what file or app you are trying to download that XProtect deems potentially unsafe, the security tool could either fully prevent you from proceeding with the download or present you with a security warning that you could ignore and still finish the downloading process. If you are in the second situation and choose to ignore the warning, you could get your Mac infected and, after that, there won’t be much that XProtect could do to deal with the malware.
Its database could be outdated. Regularly updating the virus definitions on XProtect is what keeps this app effective. Those updates should, by default, happen automatically. However, even if it has its latest updates installed, this still doesn’t mean it can stop all existing malware. No matter how extensive and exhaustive its database is, XProtect is still going to be susceptible to Zero-day attacks (attacks form new viruses that are yet to be included in the antivirus’ database). Unfortunately, it’s exactly those Zero-day attacks that are the most problematic and devastating.
Is installing a third-party antivirus a good option?
There has been a lot of controversy around this topic and for a good reason – most antivirus and anti-malware tools offered for Mac are either of very low-quality or are, themselves, quite similar to actual malware. However, on the other hand, we already mentioned some of the weaknesses associated with Mac’s built-in defenses. Even though, for the most part, XProtect can adequately keep you safe, there are a lot of security features an actual antivirus would have that are missing here (real-time scans, behavior-based detection, and so on).
In the end, it is up to you to decide if it is worth it to get a third-party antivirus or only rely on what Mac already has to offer. Our advice, if you are really looking to keep your Mac safe and don’t mind investing in its security, is to get a high-quality antivirus suite that has good reviews and scores on independent labs’ tests. Just be very careful when you are looking for an antivirus for your Mac because, as we already mentioned, there are a lot of fake or outright harmful ones that are simply created to get you to spend money on them without offering you any actual protection.
Manually keeping your Mac safe
This is probably the most important part of keeping your Mac protected – learning how to use your own common sense and experience in order to avoid malware instead of relying on XProtect or third-party antiviruses to keep you safe. Here are several invaluable safety rules you should always adhere to if you wish to keep your Mac malware-free:
Be careful with what online content you interact with
This one is probably the most important precaution for keeping your Mac out of trouble. Examples of online content you shouldn’t interact with because it might be hazardous are spam messages and any attachments they may have, big flashy banners and pop-ups (or other types of clickbait-y ads), suspicious download buttons, illegal or pirated downloadable files, and programs, etc. Also, if you think that a given site seems unreliable, it’s best to leave it right away.
Don’t ignore the warnings from XProtect
XProtect can only keep you safe if you listen to its warnings. Therefore, if it tells you that a given file or program is potentially not safe, you shouldn’t try to download and run it in spite of the security warning.
Don’t keep your Firewall disabled
There are certain (rare) instances when one might need to disable their Firewall in order to complete a certain action. If you end up doing this, make sure that the disable is temporary and that you turn back on your Firewall as soon as possible. Otherwise, your computer would be much more exposed and vulnerable to attacks.
Keep your system and browser updated
Mac updates should typically happen automatically but if, for some reason, your OS or browser are out of date, be sure to manually install their latest updates. Outdated software could oftentimes mean that there are security weaknesses which could be exploited by newly-released malware.
Try using VPN
This is more of a privacy advice rather than a security one, yet using a VPN tool could help you keep sensitive personal data better protected against online scammers, blackmailers, and frauds. Using a VPN is especially important if you tend to frequently connect your Mac to public Wi-Fi networks that could be accessed by anyone.