Is Your Mac Really Safe?
A common perception is that Macs are inherently more secure and less prone to malware than their PC counterparts. But is this true? In this article I want to offer a little perspective on this common perception and explain why owning a Mac does not automatically free you from having to think about security.
So why are Macs considered to be more secure?
One reason may be the perception that there are less Macs in the world. While people create malware for a variety of reasons, they mainly do it for profit. So if you’re one of these bad guys you are probably going to aim your scams at the largest possible target – which happens to be PC’s.
There are a couple of other factors that add to the general security of Mac products. First they are based on the unix operating system, which strictly enforces file ownership privileges. This is a fancy way of saying that programs running on the system do not have the ability to overwrite other files or modify essential configuration files – those files that keep your computer running the way it’s supposed to. So it’s a little harder for any malware to actually damage your system.
Mac also has two built in security applications that help keep it secure. These are Gatekeeper and XProtect. Gatekeeper blocks the installation of any software that hasn’t been digitally signed by Apple. And Xprotect scans for known malware and quarantines any threats.
And since bad guys usually go for easy targets, the relatively increased security of the Mac simply makes it a less appealing target. It’s ultimately more lucrative to go after PC’s which are more widespread and have softer security features. At least that’s how the bad guys probably see it.
The problem with the perceived greater security of the Mac is that it can lull a Mac users into letting their guard down. Make no mistake. Macs DO suffer from security issues and they are susceptible to malware and viruses. Luckily Mac owners can stay safe by following a few basic practices.
So what should Mac owners do to protect themselves?
First, keep your Mac and software, including web browsers and their extensions, up to date. You can either setup your Mac to update automatically, or you can learn to manually run the software update process yourself. This site has more information about updating your Mac: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201541
If updating manually, remember to check for updates again after the first round of updates is complete. Some updates only appear after an earlier update has been installed.
As far as updating your browser goes, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari should all update automatically. However you should still learn how to check if you are running the latest version. Here’s a great site that teaches you how to stay up to date and secure with all of the major browsers: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001388.htm
Also, you should avoid Peer-to-Peer file sharing, as this is a common vector for malware. The reason being that in peer-to-peer file sharing you are allowing files to be downloaded to your machine. And those legit and useful files can easily be carrying hidden malware. In fact peer-to-peer file sharing programs were the vector for the encryption virus that hit Macs back in March 2016.
An finally consider looking into a free anti-virus software for your Mac. While Mac has great security features such as Gatekeeper and XProtect, they don’t always prevent infection. I recently had a case where a current and up to date Mac was infected by malware that had gone undetected for quite a while. I used AVG Anti-Virus for Mac to scan the machine and successfully remove the malware. You can check it out here:
If you know someone who uses a Mac, please share this article with them. The simple practices outline here can help keep A Mac safe and secure for years to come, allowing the owner to get the most out of their investment. And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. We’re just a phone call away.