Macs do get viruses, but not many. Email spam can contain viruses aimed at Windows PCs. Anti-virus apps can find and remove such malware. Finally, let’s lump viruses, Trojans, worms, and phishing attempts into a single, easily identifiable word. Malware. Macs get malware.
Before All Else Fails
Windows PC users are far more familiar with malware than Mac users, and for a variety of reasons, including larger target numbers, Windows security, but more importantly the device between the keyboard and the screen.
That would be the user. Bluntly put, Windows PC users, on average, are more gullible than Mac users, so more susceptible to adding malware to a device.
That doesn’t mean Mac users are immune to malware. Quite the contrary, as I’ll divulge in a moment. That explains why Mac users have a few choices in tools that scan OS X and Mac files for malware, including a favorite, ClamXav.
This free virus scanning utility has been around awhile, gets updated often, and can be downloaded from the Mac App Store (but get the latest donationware version from developer Mark Allan).
Use ClamXav to scan your Mac for malware. Detected files can be quarantined to avoid problems.
ClamXav will list what it determines to be offending files. Virus definition updates are free, and Preferences make it simple to exclude specific files, disks, or folders from the scan.
Offending files can be trashed or quarantined with a click, and ClamXav can be scheduled to run while you’re not using your Mac. And, yes, it uses the popular and mature ClamAV engine to do the dirty work.
Not bad for donationware free, right?
Here’s the problem with ClamXav. It’s aimed at viruses, of which there are fewer to be found on the Mac than on Windows PCs. Malware is a different game. My wife’s friend brought over her MacBook Pro recently to have me look at it. Why? It was running slowly and had ad popups all over the screen.
Uh oh. Virus? Nope. Worm? Uh uh. Trojan Horse? Of course. One of her friends gave her a URL so she could download free TV shows and movies and inadvertently (a polite way of saying ‘foolishly’) downloaded Conduit browser malware onto her Mac, and every browser– Safari, Chrome, and Firefox– was hijacked and infected. Every webpage ended up with pop up advertisements and videos and thousands of websites were downloaded in the background.
It took awhile to remove every last vestige of Conduit from my wife’s friend’s Mac, but ClamXav helped find some– but not all– of Conduit’s offending files. In the end, little damage was done, and a lesson was learned. As a Mac user, be careful which files you download and give permission to be installed on your Mac. And don’t be afraid to use anti-virus or anti-malware apps on your Mac from time to time.