Malware Advice for Apple Mac Users

Malware Advice for Apple Mac Users

Do Macs Get Malware?

 Yes, Apple computers do get malware and unfortunately, it is becoming more common. Unfortunately, Apple does not respond quickly to malware threats as Mac users might hope for. Therefore, it is a smart idea to have some protection on the Internet for your computer. Make sure to do research first on both free and paid software protection before choosing which ones to install on your machine.

Many people still believe it is safe to use their Apple Mac without needing an anti-virus/malware program. However, more people are installing third-party programs such as Norton Internet Security, Sophos or Avast.

Are Macs More Secure Than Windows Computers?

As there are more Windows-based computers than Apple Mac computers, they have become a viable target for cybercriminals. They are also more vulnerable and easier to hack. This makes them a more attractive target.

However, with the recent increase in market share of Apple computers, the focus for criminals widens. This is as the market for cyber activity becomes more attractive and accessible.

The Mac OS is not immune to hacking, but it is arguable more secure than Windows 7, 8/8.1 or 10. This is due to being a Unix-based operating system. It uses App Sandbox to prevent the application from accessing parts of the operating system it doesn’t need. This limits damage in the event of an exploit or security compromise.

How To Check For Viruses And Malware On Your Mac

Have you noticed changes in your Mac performance, such as recent slowing, Safari malfunctions or weird behaviour on the search engine? It is worth checking that you aren’t a victim of malicious software or computer hacking.

In April 2018, published their guide and recommendations for the best Mac anti-virus programs available for purchase.

Some products also offer free versions of their software. This includes access to their full version for a limited period without subscription fees. Chief among these are “real-time protection” and “anti-ransomware/crypto-locker defence”.

We regard Malwarebytes for Mac as a highly effective and useful software tool, however surprising it was not included in the aforementioned article. After looking at this article, we encourage you to install one of these programs, update to the latest virus/malware definitions and run a scan of your system.

How To Protect Your Mac From Virus And Malware

The MacOS has built-in programs including Gatekeeper, Malware Removal Tool and Xprotect that run in the background. These prevent malware threats and suspicious software and are updated along with general MacOS updates. However, these programs have shown various degrees of effectiveness in protecting your computer against virus and malware. In addition to implementing third-party security software, we suggest you also do the following;

  • Always be careful of your activity when online
  • Be careful of unknown emails and files, and never provide personal information to unknown sources
  • Ensure that your Mac and all accounts are protected with strong passwords. These passwords should be made up of at least eight characters including numbers, letters and special characters
  • Ensure that your Mac’s built-in firewall is enabled: System Preference > Security > Firewall
  • Make sure that “Open safe files after downloading” is unchecked: Safari > Preferences > General
  • Disable Java in your browser: uncheck “Enable Java” in Safari > Preference > Security
  • Check that your Mac and applications are always up to date and that the updates are through Apple and not from internet popups.
  • Only install software from reputable and verified sites
  • Never install pirated software


Apple has a malware scanning tool called Xprotect which works with any OSX from 2009 with Snow Leopard (10.6) onwards.  This is a feature built into “File Quarantine”.  When you open an application downloaded from the Internet using a “File Quarantine aware” program such as Safari, Chrome, Mail or iChat, you will see a warning message. This message is informing you that the application was downloaded from the web along with specific website information.

If Xprotect does detect malware, you will see a warning message that says running this file will damage your computer and informing you which malware definition it matches. Make sure the default in the App store is checked “Install system data files and security updates”. This allows this program to function best to keep malware off Macs.

Safari Anti-Phishing Technology

There is also anti-phishing technology in Safari that will detect fraudulent websites. It will disable the page and display an alert warning you have visited a suspect website. Plug-ins to Safari won’t run if they aren’t updated to the latest version (Adobe Flash, Silverlight, QuickTime, Java etc). This is another way of keeping you safe.

How To Remove Virus And Malware On Your Mac

Hopefully, your computer will already be installed with an AV program that has detected the virus, trojan, keylogger or malware on your system. Ensure that your AV program removes these items from your system. In some cases, you may need to instruct your AV program to remove or quarantine these items to complete the process.

Check the settings of your search engines to ensure they have been reset to their default settings. Otherwise, you may need to repeat the whole process again as the malware was not completely removed.

Recent Apple Mac Malware Attacks 2017

  1. OSX/Dok which is a Trojan horse could hijack all traffic entering and leaving a Mac without the user’s knowledge. It even had a legitimate and valid developers’ certificate. This Trojan worked via an email phishing campaign. Be aware of emails from people you don’t know and with attachments.
  2. Xagent can steal passwords, taking screenshots and get iPhone backups stored on your Mac.
  3. OSX/Pirrit was hidden in cracked versions of Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop found online. Once installed, it gained root privileges and created a new account in order to install yet more software.
  4. MacDownloader was found in a fake Adobe Flash update. When it was installed, an alert claimed that “There is adware on your Mac”. It then wanted a password to remove said adware. The virus then transmitted data including the user’s Keychain to a remote server. Keychain contains such items as usernames, passwords, pin numbers, credit card details etc.
  5. The Word macro virus (Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc) when run automatically created issues for Mac users. With the release of the 2011 Microsoft Office, Apple enabled macro support, but this has become an issue. The file must be opened with macros enabled (which doesn’t happen by default). It will then run a python code which runs keyloggers (logging keystrokes) and takes screenshots.
  6. FruitFly was first reported in January 2017 and it conducts surveillance taking screenshots and webcam images as well as looking for other devices on the network to exploit. According to Malwarebytes, this attack has been going on since Yosemite released in 2014.

More Mac Malware Attacks

There have been even more recorded Mac malware attacks such as;

  • KeRanger (Ransomeware)
  • Safari-Get (Mail is hijacked, and the system is overloaded. The computer shuts down then forces you to get help from a bogus Apple support number with a fee charged)
  • Touch Bar hacks (Touch Bar display hijacked through a flaw in Safari, which can let an intruder gain root control of MacOS)


At Affordable Computer Repairs and Service, we offer a Mac Virus Removal service in our Coorparoo workshop. Contact us today on 3397 1215 or 0409 974 707 to speak to our technicians about virus removal or any other Apple Mac related inquires.

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