Apple Mac OSX Virus Protection

October 14, 2012

The latest Mac operating system (Mountain Lion) has something called "Gatekeeper" included. It protects you from all the bad stuff as effectively as it is possible to do so without incorporating a clairvoyant. Adding any additional "protection" is quite pointless.

Some say that a Trojan is a type of virus. That's like saying "a bacterium is a form of virus". It isn't. In fact a "trojan" is even less like a virus because a virus can replicate itself. So can bacteria but a "trojan" can't. It relies on fooling the user into downloading and installing it. It works by deception and is relatively easy to avoid.

Apple Mac virus

There are NO self-replicating OSX viruses. Not a single one. Zero. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something or is sadly mistaken. There have been a few "trojans" - mostly experimental and not disseminated "in the wild". Nothing currently exists "in the wild" that can affect a Mac unless you visit naughty sites and try really hard to find something AND have Java enabled in your browser. Any current "AV software" will not warn of a new exploit because it won't know what it's looking for.

Almost all other OSX "malware" has exploited vulnerabilities in add-ons such as "flash" and "Java". My advice is don't install "add-ons" in the first place and that will reduce your risk to miniscule proportions (near enough zero). People seem to love "add-ons" such as "Little Snitch", "MacKeeper", "MacCleaner" etc. These programmes might be reliable when used individually but, when more than one is running in the background, you can get conflicts that cause problems. This is especially so for so-called "anti-virus" software (and let me repeat, again: there are currently no self-replicating OSX "viruses", which makes "AV software" pointless).

By keeping your Mac "clean" (i.e. by NOT installing all that crapware) you'll minimise future problems. That's my personal experience after 25 years of using Macs and of helping friends who have problems. The people who have the most problems are those who try to "protect" their Macs and the more "protection" they install, the greater the problems they have.

The basic OSX, freshly installed, is about as secure as Apple can make it. It becomes less secure and more prone to problems when you mess with it.

As for the familiar admonishment: "oh, but you should run AV software in order to protect Windows users", all I can do is laugh. I use a Mac because it has no such vulnerabilities. No way am I going to use my precious CPU cycles to "protect Windows users" who are (or should be) using their own CPU cycles.


Do NOT use your Mac as "Admin". Set up a user account without admin rights and use that. You will then have to type your admin password each time something needs to be installed. Think very carefully before typing your password.

Do NOT install crapware. Think carefully before installing anything new. Don't install "on the spur of the moment" or "on a whim" or because someone in a pub or Internet forum told you it was essential or because it appeared in an advert on this page. Research it very carefully first.

Do NOT enable "Java" in your Internet browsers (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Maxthon etc.) unless you really need to and you know that the site requiring it is secure.

Do NOT enable "Flash" in your Internet browsers (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Maxthon etc.) unless you really need to and you know that the site requiring it is secure.

Online banking, Paypal etc. Use a different browser for these activities and DON'T use it for anything else.

Examples of problems

I've been using the anti-virus program avast! for a while. Once I found a way to keep it from putting up warnings about incoming mail it seemed easy to live with and apparently benign. But because of comments here, I decided it was not needed and might be slowing things down or, worse, causing undetermined difficulties. So I turned it off. And then deleted it entirely, using its own provided uninstall program.

Since then, I cannot receive my mail. I have Gmail accounts, so I can get my mail online, but I can no longer download into Apple Mail as I had been and would like to continue doing. Mail is unable to connect to the server, and provides this alert:

"Unable to Connect. There may be a problem with the mail server or network. Verify the settings for account."

Reply: Delete the Gmail accounts in Mail, then recreate them. Nothing will be lost as Gmail keeps everything online as well.

A number of users on the Apple Community Support forum have reported a variety of issues with Avast. I don't think they fully understand OS X yet, so it would not surprise me if their uninstaller is faulty. There are even reports of it identifying and removing System components as malware which required a System restore, but I have not heard that recently.

I tend to agree that most users that keep their software up-to-date don't need extra protection at the moment. I could easily change my mind tomorrow, so it always pays to have a plan B for A-V protection. There are several alternative brands that have years of experience with OS X, some free and some can be configured to have minimal impact on normal use. Thomas Reed has written this guide to assist users decide what's best for them

Send this page address - CLICK HERE - to a friend !

Back to Index