Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
With McAfee Labs releasing its Threats Report last week, malware is once again in the news. (See 2017 McAfee Threat Report Shows Spike in Mac Malware, which Jim Tanous wrote for TMO last week, for example).
What IS Malware, Anyway?
Let’s start by defining malware (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Malware (short for malicious software) is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware and more.
The McAfee report claims around 250,000 new instances of macOS malware in the first quarter of 2017 (out of a total of just over 700,000). But, here’s the thing… While it may be true there’s more Mac malware these days, the report goes on to say,
During the past three quarters, new Mac OS (sic*) malware has been boosted by a glut of adware.
Here’s how I read that: The number of instances of Mac malware went up, but we’re not seeing more of the really bad stuff like viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, and spyware. Instead, we’re seeing more and more annoying adware.
Does YOUR Mac Need Protection from Malware?
Moving right along, whenever malware is in the news, people ask me what I use to protect my Mac from malware. I (still) say, “nothing,” as I have since time immemorial.
That’s not to say there aren’t real threats to Mac users—there are. And that’s not to say you might not want to run anti-malware protection—and perhaps you should.
But here’s why I eschew running anti-malware stuff on my Mac:
First and foremost: I don’t engage in (much, if any) risky behavior. I don’t click links in emails from strangers, download apps from questionable sources, use questionable media, or visit questionable web sites. I keep versions of macOS and all of my web browser(s) up to date on all my Macs. And, as you have probably noticed, I’m also obsessive about redundant backups.
So, even if one of those bad things did happen to me, it wouldn’t take me long to recover.
The other thing is that I’ve never used anti-virus or anti-malware software that didn’t cause me issues. Some slowed my Mac down; others gave too many false alarms; others seemed to do nothing at all, leaving me wondering what if they were doing anything at all…
The Bottom Line (for Me) on Malware
The bottom line for me is that Apple’s built-in Gatekeeper technology and common sense have kept me safe from malicious attacks for years. I still see no good reason to run a third-party anti-malware utility on my Mac. And since I don’t use one, I have no recommendations.
If you feel you need third-party protection from malware, Macworld UK posted an excellent article last week called, Best Mac Antivirus 2017, which includes general buying advice, answers to Mac security questions, performance testing, and the 8 best Mac antivirus options and an explanation of how they were tested.
One last thing: Most of Macworld’s picks offer a free trial. I recommend using it to determine whether you find running the software annoying (as I do) before you pay for it.