Antivirus for Mac?

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My daughter will, we think, be heading off to her freshman year of college shortly. I purchased a MacBook for her and want to make sure the machine is reasonably protected from malware and other threats. Which antivirus/anti-malware vendors are reputable these days? Who can be trusted with the contents of a computer? Which work reasonably well on a Mac to offer a college student some malware protection without getting in the way?

I’ve used Windows Defender in the Windows world for years. I simply have no context on antivirus software these days, but understand there have been some issues with some vendors sending information to the cloud and some question as to whether some vendors have ties to adversarial governments. Given how much access these tools have, I’m really uncomfortable. I feel like Apple should do what Microsoft has done and build their own anti-malware software.

I thought Microsoft had announced they were bringing Defender to the Mac, but when I checked, it doesn’t yet appear to be available. I’m also wondering if this is meant to be an Enterprise offering. I would feel perfectly comfortable with using Defender on the Mac.

I’ve been a casual Mac user for quite a few years to play around with iOS development, but I’ve never run any type of antivirus/anti-malware software on mine.

Comments (5)

5 responses to “Antivirus for Mac?”

  1. jimchamplin

    It's different. While malware and viruses are very much real for macOS, it's a completely different OS that's by design more resilient vs. P.U.P.s. I've never run a full-time AV suite on Macintosh, and probably never will. I do use Malwarebytes' free version and weekly run a manual scan, or if things seem off.


    It's never once found anything. Not insulting Malwarebytes, I trust it and also use it on Windows in the same way. It does detect things there once in a blue moon. I also have very safe Internet habits, and avoid potential infection that way as well. In a college setting though, there's going to be documents traded with total strangers, all kinds of bull getting downloaded from social crap, and multiple vectors for attack. Again, I'd suggest Malwarebytes and their Premium service for real-time protection.


    Bitdefender tops the lists at Techradar and Macworld, and has been well-trusted for some time.


    PS I, too, would happily run Microsoft Defender on my Mac.

  2. GT Tecolotecreek

    I'm running Bitdefender. Good price for multi machine discounts. Mostly catches Win32 Word/Excel exploits coming in mail. Fast doesn't slow down system.

    Tried Avast but kept running into critical bugs they were really slow in fixing.

  3. martinusv2

    You should look at www.av-test.org

  4. bkkcanuck

    As far as I can understand...


    The OS itself is 'hardened' (more so in the last version - Catalina), so the operating system actually resides on a read-only mounted volume and it cannot be altered once the operating system is running.


    Then the apps that are distributed have (with a few exceptions) to be distributed by a registered developer account and the software is notarized and if it is altered - it won't match the certificate and won't run. If for some reason a developer paid the money ($100) got an account and got approved then distributed malware as part of an app (getting through the review process)... the developer account would be revolked, the certificates revolked and any software distributed via that account are then not going to execute.


    If you download software, and bypass the gatekeeper (it blocks install from unknown developers by default) - by downloading software then trying to launch it - which comes up with an error that it is not authorized. You then have to go into security and tell the OS system to run it anyways. Then you could install an app that may be malicious (which tends to be at most adware)... but there are a lot of hoops to go through to install software that is potentially malware.


    If there is an issue with malware in the wild, and for some reason has been able to dupe people to install it... Apple will send out silent security patches (they just install - they don't come up as a patch for you to install). These patches will then remove these.


    Applications cannot modify other applications or the OS itself.


    So for the most part, you as a user tend to have to be very negligent to get the malware on the computer in the first place. (a few exceptions - last one I heard of was in the year 2016 with (Transmission a bittorrent client had an issue with distributing their client with some malware as part of the application)


    I don't run any AV software on the computer (I did when I first came over from Windows when Windows had lots of security issues) called Intego - but I had issues with it with it causing issues with the OS at that time (segfault)... I then went through the issue of all the items that it protected against - and the list was basically all things that had to be installed by someone in possession of the software... so I stopped using it. AV software itself has significant performance impact and I figured it could be easily avoided by not installing pirated software or things like that. That was around 10 years ago and I have not had any security issues with malware after that point.

  5. robmille

    You'd be better off setting her up with security settings on Safari, and if she has any other browser make sure it's getting updated. Use OpenDNS, or Filtered Cloudflare/Quad9 for DNS to protect form malware, and stay away from AV software. AV software is mostly just attack surface, ESPECIALLY on shared networks like a college campus.

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