Do Macs Get Viruses?

A question that keeps popping up is “Do Macs get viruses?”. The simple answer is “yes”. However, the better question is “Do Macs need Antivirus software?” And the answer isn’t as straightforward. In this article, we’ll give you a quick overview of the Mac Malware scene do help you decide whether you need to take further action or not.

See also: What’s the Best Mac Antivirus Software 2018?

Five things you need to know about Mac Viruses?

Macs do get Viruses (see below). However, they’re not common as the Malware that targets Windows-based systems. Here are five things that will help you understand more about Macs and Malware.

  1. It’s true, Macs are more secure than Windows PCs. This is mainly because a Mac’s operating system, macOS, is a Unix-based OS that keeps apps sandboxed. This prevents apps reaching the sections of the macOS where they can cause damage. Keeping third-party apps sandboxed means, in theory, a virus cannot spread.
  2. Macs experience fewer viruses is because there are fewer Macs than Windows PCs. Malware is a numbers game and is usually designed to infect as many computers as possible. With more Windows PCs in the world and Windows providing a (traditionally) more fruitful hunting ground – it makes sense for designers of Malware to take aim at Windows rather than Macs.
  3. Apple is aware of the Mac viruses and takes preventative action. All modern versions of macOS come with Xprotect pre-installed. This is Mac’s native antivirus software. It operates invisibly in the background of your Mac and gets apps and files against a comprehensive list of known malware threats.
  4. Gatekeeper is another feature of macOS. As its name suggests, this software acts as a kind of digital border police force. Apps need to be digitally signed and submitted to Apple for approval before they’re allowed on the whitelist. Any app that’s not on Gatekeeper’s whitelist will prompt the error “This app cannot be opened because it is from an unidentified developer”. The only way for a user to install an app after seeing this message is to change a few admin settings before trying again (at their own risk).
  5. Mac-specific malware is on the rise. IN January 2018, AV-TEST reported that Mac malware threats grew by 38,000 samples in 2017 alone. In the same period, Kaspersky Labs also recorded over 12m attacks on its own network of Mac users. It’s a problem that’s not going away.

A (brief) list of Mac Viruses

Flashback Malware – May 2012

  • 600,000+ Macs infected
  • This virus was designed to steal personal information such as usernames and passwords etc

OSX/MitM.A Virus – May 2013

  • A relatively small number of Macs infected
  • This piece of Malware was designed to take and publish screenshots of a Mac user’s screen

OSX.Proton – 2017

  • Infected thousands of Macs
  • Accessed the macOS keygen app
  • Stole users’ credentials and login information

OSX/MaMi – January 2018

  • Thousands of Mac infected
  • Accessed Mac’s internet traffic

…the list goes on.

David Court
David is a professional journalist. He's been reviewing lifestyle and technology products since 2007. His CV boasts a series of high-profile websites that he's previously edited and managed. These sites include,,, and is his new project.


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