“Macs can’t pick up malware” is an outdated idea. Macs are not safe from malware and haven’t been around for a long time.
This is not to say that MacOS is an unsafe operating system: it is not. But macOS, like Windows and Linux, is prone to user error. To some extent, making sure your Mac is malware-free is up to you.
We’ve gathered a few tips for Mac users, but there’s a lot you can do that isn’t Mac-specific — so be sure to check out our complete guide to basic security along with other tips. following tips.
Keep your Mac and other software, up to date
You know how macOS will notify you of new updates and you always click “Remind me later”? Yeah, you should stop doing that.
The most important and easiest way to keep your Mac safe from malware is to keep macOS and all your apps up to date. System updates patch known security vulnerabilities, so if you don’t update, you’re getting rid of existing documented vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by malware. System Update also updates X-Protect, Mac’s hidden anti-malware software, which gives you system-level protection from common malware.
Updating your apps is also essential. Your browser is a huge potential vector for infection, so make sure to keep it up to date. Vulnerabilities in any application are a potential problem.
The Mac App Store makes managing updates easy, by keeping system updates and updates for a lot of your apps in one place. And MacOS is great at notifying you of updates, with banners that can’t be missed and some in the menu bar. You can even enable automatic updates in the background if you don’t want to manage everything yourself.
As for apps that you don’t get from the Mac App Store, that’s up to you. If you see a message stating that you installed the update, do so. It’s annoying, sure, but it’s an important way to keep your Mac safe.
Only install software you trust
If you know where you look, you can find any Mac app for free. It’s called “piracy”, and I’m sure a famous citizen like yourself has never heard of it.
Seriously, though: installing pirated Mac apps from sketchy sites is the most common way to end up with malware, watch closely by clicking ads suggesting something like “ Your Adobe Flash software is out of date.” If you install software from untrusted websites, no anti-malware software can help you and won’t tell you what kind of infection might be occurring.
So don’t do that. Always download software from the Mac App Store or directly from the software’s official website. If you get a pop-up that says Adobe Flash is out of date, it’s probably a scam – but if you want to be sure, visit Adobe.com instead of clicking the pop-up and checking for updates updated from official source.
By default, your Mac will only run software from authorized developers, which is great. This is an important layer of security for you. So even though we’ve already shown you how to open apps from “Unknown Developers” on your Mac, you should really only do this if you’re absolutely sure that the app you allow run is from a trusted source. I try to limit this to projects with publicly available code, but you’ll need to work out the rules for yourself. Just make sure you’re only running applications that you know for a fact you can trust.
Turn off Java and Flash
Two of the most popular vectors for Mac malware are Java and Flash, early but increasingly obsolete browser plugins that powered the web. It is important that you keep these plugins up to date.
On the web modern Java and Flash are both avoidable. Safari, the default web browser on macOS, disables both default browsers, only running plugins when you specifically re-enable them.
You can also disable these plugins in other browsers and it might be a good idea to disable Flash and Java in basically all cases. Only allow them on sites you trust and only when necessary. Modern websites don’t require Java or Flash much anymore, so if you can avoid running them altogether it might be best.