Want to protect and Check Your Mac for Viruses and Malware?
Most people find out their computers have a virus when something bad happens. An email attachment doesn’t open as directed and now all of your contacts might be in jeopardy. Or, the machine has completely locked up and you can’t even turn it off or restart to fix it.
Malware is malicious software designed to damage or control your computer. They are often installed without the user’s knowledge. This means that there are times when you may suspect your machine has become infected with something that shouldn’t be there.
On my first year as a college student during my sophomore year, I bought a used laptop which included a virus already installed on the machine. I didn’t know this for some time and spent some time researching, and steam cleaning the computer on my own.
It took me some time to realize that the issues I was facing were not as simple as they first appeared, as my computer would frequently hang up, take long to fix and cause system warnings. One day I decided to reformat my operating system so it could be productive once more.
Even the best anti-virus for Mac in the world will be useless if you don’t take basic security measures. In fact, you might even have a virus, but not know it.
There are many ways that a virus could be introduced into your Mac. From visiting a website that carries the virus to simply downloading an email attachment. Regardless of how a virus makes its way onto your machine, there are some telltale signs, and steps you can take to protect yourself from future infections.
Can Macs get viruses?
If you have a Mac, the odds of it being infected with malware are very slim. Some estimates put the number as low as 1%. However, just because a Mac isn’t likely to be infected doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. In fact, there have been some instances where businesses have been impacted by malware on their Macs. Therefore, it’s still a good idea to monitor for any of these signs your Mac is infected with Malware.
In theory, Macs aren’t immune from viruses. In practice, they fall victim to a lot fewer malicious codes than Windows PCs do. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect your Mac at all costs. If you want to know how to tell if your Mac has a virus, keep reading. I’ll explain the different methods and approaches cybercriminals use to attack Macs and what you can do about them. Finally, we’ll show how to detect and deal with a real virus on your precious iMac or MacBook Pro.
- Silver Sparrow: If you thought your Mac couldn’t get a virus, you might want to think again. Judging by the name of this one, you’ve most likely guessed that Silver Sparrow is not the kind of program you’d want to run on your computer.
- Pirri/GoSearch22: If you use a Mac, you may have heard that Macs don’t get malware—a type of computer virus/worm/trojan. But they can. The first piece of malware to target Macs with M1 Chip was called Pirri/GoSearch22. The virus itself is adware—it installs adware on your computer, changing your search engine and homepage settings, and showing you ads for Internet products. This is sometimes called “malvertising.”
Users can remove this virus manually by going into their Safe Mode and then running a system clean-up to remove any corrupted files.
- ThiefQuest: ThiefQuest, is an insidious type of malware that steals data from your machine without you even realizing it. On the surface, ThiefQuest looks like ransomware, but in reality, your files are encrypted without any sort of request for payment.
On March 26th, a group of hackers by the name of REvil launched a campaign to claim their ransom from Apple. The gang stole a large cache of sensitive data from Apple and used it as leverage to demand a multi-million dollar ransom from the company.
Sodinokibi had previously hijacked the systems of Taiwan’s Win Way Industrial Co. Ltd. in March, using the same logic-bomb style malware that this time infected Quanta’s internal network.
How does a hacker get into a high-profile company’s computer network? They hack the end users. It’s simple, but it has been happening for years and is still happening today. Case in point: REvil targeted Quanta Computer, a major computer manufacturer mostly known for producing devices for Apple Inc.
In an open letter, REvil said it had successfully penetrated Quanta’s network and in so doing gained access to a “large data of Apple computers.
Signs your MacBook might have virus or Malware
The list of symptoms that indicate your Mac is infected with malware are similar to those that would be experienced during a virus infection. However, there are differences to keep in mind. To keep your Mac malware free, examine any drastic changes to its performance, observe any unfamiliar programs running on the OS, and inform yourself of how to delete viruses from macOS.
- Website Redirection: The first major type of malware, which makes its presence known very quickly, involves redirecting users to websites other than the ones they are anticipated to visit. This can be done in a number of ways, often by producing fake error messages instructing you to find the actual website via third-party search engines or links.
The cybercriminal can even force you to click on these links for this purpose. The end result is that the user is taken to a page containing malicious content or software prompting him/her to pay money or provide sensitive information.
- Mac is Slow: Your MacBook is performing slowly or wont start, applications are crashing or getting stuck. It may also have unusual popups, beeping sounds, or flashes of color on the screen.
Foolishly, the owner thinks they’re simply running a program that they downloaded from the internet to test out their Mac. But in reality, they’ve been compromised and if they haven’t yet noticed it, they soon will. Mining and DDOS attacks can use up a ton of CPU — and thus electricity — and make your Mac run like it’s underwater. It might even crash or lock up for no reason.
- Scareware is a form of malware designed to scare you into believing your Mac is infected with malware.
Periodically, you receive security alerts alerting you to the presence of malware on your Mac, but after scanning your Mac with antivirus software, you don’t find anything wrong. One major risk factor here is the fact that scareware usually doesn’t contain any code sophisticated enough to be detected by antivirus software.
- Compromised Browser and fake Extensions: The easiest way to tell if you’re infected is if your homepage for Safari, Chrome, or Firefox has suddenly changed.
Your browser starts redirecting to unwanted or malicious websites. You’ve noticed unknown extensions or bookmarks in your browser, or your homepage changed to something you didn’t set up.
- Ever wondered why ads keep popping up on your Mac? The culprit is most likely adware. These applications aim to generate revenue by displaying advertisements.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what malware is and how you can get it. While arguably not as dangerous as viruses, these little nuisances can take over your homepage, homepage search engine and taskbar. And they generate revenue for their authors who siphon off any money you spend on ads clicking while your cursor is in one of their ads.
- If your Mac has no sound or Wi-Fi, the virus may have made its way deeper into the system and deleted users’ files.
The cyber criminals behind this malware may lock your Mac and demand that you pay a ransom through Bitcoin before they unlock it again. At such times, try restoring your Mac using Back to My Mac or Time Machine if you have either of these backup methods configured. If not, the only option left is paying up . But beware — even after paying the ransom, there’s no guarantee of getting your files back.
- Malware Scanner Confirms Infection: If you’re concerned that your Mac might be infected with malware, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are some free programs available to help.
Scan your Mac with the free Malware Scanner by Sophos. This simple program allows you to scan your entire machine or an individual file, and check for malware infections. If infected, you’ll see a list of malicious software that could have gotten onto your machine. To remove the infection, simply click the “Remove All” button.
Malwarebytes for Mac: With Malwarebytes for Mac you can scan your entire system in less than 30 seconds. That means you can hit “scan” and walk away while it removes adware and potential malware that could be hiding on your Mac. While speedy, it’s also thorough. It uncovers and gets rid of adware, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), and even has a special tool just for removing ransomware threats.
The Bitdefender Virus Scanner app is a lightweight tool that lets you quickly check for viruses and malware, using the same antivirus engine that proactively protects millions of Macs. It’s free and it’s available to download from the Mac App Store
How do I check for malware on Mac?
- Check Application Info: The simplest way to check for malware is to examine your Mac’s applications folder. When you find an app that looks suspicious, right-click on it to display its Info window. And then examine the application’s creator, identifier, version number and other information, all of which are supplied by Apple. Is this information what you expected? Do certain text strings in the Info dialog jog your memory? If so, Google the strings to see if they match up with any known malware titles.
- Check unwanted applications: Do a manual check for unwanted apps. Run the app you just installed to see whether it does what you expect it to do. For example, is it supposed to do one thing and is doing another? Does it start automatically when you turn on your Mac? Does it show an icon in Notification Center? If so, you can most likely control it from there.
Check and delete apps on Mac.
- Use Activity monitor to verify for malware: In some circumstances, malware can be running on your Mac without affecting your ability to use your Mac. In this case, you can use Activity Monitor to identify any suspicious processes running on your Mac.
Some programs will show arbitrary high CPU or memory usage. This can be a sign that the program is malware and needs to be looked into. Activity Monitor will give you the information needed to determine if a program should be running at abnormally high CPU usage.
Activity Monitor helps you analyze and debug information about processes on your Mac. You can use it to get information such as the process identifier (PID), the amount of CPU and memory usage, and details about threads.
You can find malware that has root access by going to Applications>Utilities>Activity Monitor. Check the CPU of the apps and abort the app process by clicking on “X” in the upper left area of the window. You can also delete the memory hogging app from finder.
- Start by removing unknown extensions: Look for suspicious extensions and add-ons to see if they’re used to redirect your search queries. If so, uninstall such add-ons immediately.
Safari performs most of its functions automatically with few user prompts, but contains a wide variety of preferences and settings to change or add on. In some cases, you might need to manually check for malware—for example, if the Safari homepage has been changed.
If you spot a Safari ad or clickbait, the first place to look is Preferences > General > Downloads. This is where Safari stores all downloads – both automatic and manual – and any installed browser extensions.
If you find an extension you don’t use, go to Preferences > General > Extensions and remove it by clicking on the Uninstall button and confirming your choice.
- Check for suspicious login items to see if anything is set to automatically run. This isn’t always a bad thing, but if you don’t recognize an item, you should check it out. A suspicious login item may have been placed there by a virus or spyware. You can then decide if you want to remove it or not.
Go to System Preferences > Click Users & Groups > Login Items. Check the boxes in the hide column to stop the app from automatically running. To completely remove the app from login item list : Click the minus sign to remove the item.
Protect your Mac from malware
To help protect you from malware, Apple does regular, automated checks of the apps in the App Store. In case a developer or someone else tries to add malicious software to an app on the App Store, these automated checks help find it before it can spread.
When you download a free or paid app from the Mac App Store, it’s has been tested and certified safe by Apple. This certification is a strong signal that an app is safe to use. But be careful, if you download apps from other places, you might run into malware. These tips can help you keep malware off your Mac:
- Control App Installation: The App Store has a very thorough review process. Still, there’s always a risk that a reviewer may miss something or that software from a developer who is new to the App Store might have hidden, malicious code. While the likelihood of malware on the App Store is rare, if you use software only from trusted sources, such as software distributed by Apple, you reduce your chances of installing malware unintentionally.
On your Mac, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Security & Privacy, then click General. Allows apps from the Mac App Store and apps from identified developers.
The macOS App Store is the safest place to get your apps, because every app in it has been checked by Apple for malware. All apps in the App Store are developed by registered developers who have agreed to follow our strict guidelines. The App Store also requires all apps to be code signed using an Apple developer ID. When you download an app from the App Store, the macOS security system checks to make sure that the app hasn’t been modified since it was delivered to you.
- Reset your Mac and Use Time Machine for Backup: The best practices to use when you suspect you may have been infected by a “zombie” computer virus is to reset the computer and then use Time Machine for a backup and restore.
- Use Antivirus Apps: To avoid becoming a victim of a malware attack, you need a highly capable antivirus app running on your Mac.
Mac antivirus apps go above and beyond the protection you receive from the built-in security features in macOS. If malware does manage to find its way onto your computer, a good antivirus app will help you clean up the mess and make sure it never happens again.’