Do Macs get viruses?

The question of whether Macs need antivirus is not a new one, but the answer is changing. While Macs are generally more secure than Windows PCs, they are far from immune.

Head over to the forums on the Apple’s website and you’ll find the same answer time and again – ‘you don’t need security software because I haven’t got security software and it’s never been a problem’.

The scientists among you will recognise this as a confusion of cause and effect. It’s also a simplification of a complex issue.

2017 has already seen multiple reports that suggest Macs are less secure than they once were. Business Insider claims that Macs are now more vulnerable to viruses and attack than even Windows PCs. And Fortune has warned of Mac malware that can freeze Apple computers.

Here then, are reasons for and against the suggestion that Macs don’t require antivirus.

Why Macs need antivirus

There are no technical reasons why the Mac OS cannot be targeted by cybercriminals. Indeed, there are exploits in the wild: albeit they are principally Trojans, and require a user to erroneously install them.

Yes, criminals target the lowest hanging fruit, it is harder to target Macs, and the numbers of Mac users are relatively small, but that situation could change.

Windows is becoming more secure – Windows 8 and Windows 10 are the most secure Windows ever – and the Mac market share in wealthy western countries is around 20-30 percent.

When you consider that Macs are expensive, and so their owners tend to be wealthier than the average PC users, they start to look like an attractive target.

I’m not scare-mongering – the threat is not there in any significant scale. But someday it could be, and that may make AV a worthwile investment.

It’s also worth remembering that the end user is always the weakest link. In many ways security software exists to save you from bad decisions – installing apps that appear to offer something for nothing, but turn out to be spyware or viruses.

Even Mac users can fall victim in this way. So for the price of a cup of coffee each week, it makes sense to install security software and then forget all about it.

Our colleagues over at Macworld UK have the definitive guide to the best antivirus for Mac. It is regularly updated, and is worth checking out as some of the best Mac antivirus products are free. Right now the number one recommended product is BitDefender Antivirus and the number two is Norton Antivirus.

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