How to Protect Your Mac from Malware, Viruses, and Other Assorted Junk

Yes, Macs are susceptible to malware and virus as much as a Windows PC, and it’s probably in your best interest to have at least an app or two that can give you some extra protection and peace of mind.

In a recent report from MalwareBytes, the company says that Macs “outpaced Windows PCs in number of threats detected per endpoint.” It’s also partly true that increased detection rates likely correlate to increased installations of MalwareBytes on Macs, which is (obviously) how MalwareBytes measures the total number of threats. Nevertheless, the point is clear: Macs aren’t invulnerable. More protected in some ways, yes, but not invulnerable.

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I know; I know. If you just stick to the Mac App Store, odds range from infinitesimal to low that you’ll ever be hit with a virus or malware. So if that’s your Mac experience, you might not need any antivirus or antimalware apps. I don’t see why you wouldn’t just install them anyway, because a little extra security never hurt, but I’m not going to scare you into doing it.

Were I you, I’d definitely start by installing MalwareBytes. No, this is not a free advertisement for the company. This free malware scanner has long been a key part of many a geek’s digital toolbox. You’ll have to manually scan your system in the free version, as you only get real-time scanning by paying for the premium version, but a weekly scan shouldn’t be that hard to remember. Heck, make a recurring calendar appointment for it; problem solved.

On top of that, I’d recommend checking out a decent free antivirus program: Sophos and BitDefender come to mind. If you really want to dig deep into what’s going on within your Mac, you could even supplement (or replace) an antivirus app with something like Little Snitch, which alerts you when apps on your system are trying to connect to any kind of internet server. It’s free to use for three hours at a time (with infinite restarts), so you can try it out to see if you like it.

No matter what, do not just download any ol’ antivirus or antimalware app you find on the App Store. While Apple does what it can to keep crap out, there’s no guarantee that you’re not actually grabbing malware disguised as a helpful application. Stick with the well-known companies, even if they can sometimes be crappy themselves.

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It never hurts to throw in a solid adblocker in your browser either, and I’m going to recommend Ublock Origin and Privacy Badger until I’m blue in the face. You could also try uMatrix, but it’s more geared for advanced users who really want to control what appears in their browsers.

And, obviously, resist the urge to browse crappy sites, download random torrents, and install apps or scripts you’ve never heard of (and no others really recommend). That includes random browser extensions, which might do you more harm than good. Ultimately, your own digital habits are first line of defense against malware and other harmful apps; the fewer sketchy items you check out, the better.

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