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How do I know if my Mac has a virus? Do you think a virus or malware could infect your Mac? Have you noticed that the computer is not behaving as it should, and do you think it could be due to an infection? In the following article, you will find help to detect if the problem is this and some tips to solve it.
You can also read: Best Antivirus for Mac: Best Options in 2023
You may have heard the claim that Apple products are immune to malware and virus attacks, but this is only partly true. In reality, malicious software has always been designed for Macs, but their impact has been limited due to the platform’s smaller market share and native security features.
Currently, the market share of computers with macOS (the operating system of Macs formerly known as OS X) is much larger, and attackers are putting more and more effort into attacking the system. Despite this, there have been no malware or virus attacks as large as in Windows, but the risk of being infected exists. That is why we have created this guide with tips to keep Macs safe and remove viruses and malware in case of infection.
I will discuss viruses and malware throughout the article without making distinctions, although the differences are significant. The former are snippets of code designed to perform tasks entirely invisibly on infected computers. In contrast, the latter is usually disguised as applications that promise to do one thing but do others, such as stealing user data (one of the best-known malware for Mac is MacKeeper, which disguises itself as maintenance software for the computer).
How to detect if my Mac is infected?
To ensure the effective removal of viruses or malware, it is crucial to determine whether your computer is infected. This requires a basic understanding of computer security. Familiarizing yourself with typical symptoms of infection can also be helpful, such as the following:
- Your Mac may exhibit signs of infection if it slows during everyday use, indicating that an application consumes resources. Additionally, you may notice a new toolbar in Safari, Chrome, or another browser that you don’t recall installing. These toolbars usually contain buttons or forms for online shopping or searching.
- When searching on Google or other search engines, you may be directed to unfamiliar websites or fake versions of official sites, which can be identified by examining the URL they redirect you to.
- Advertisements may appear on every website you visit, even those without ads (such as Wikipedia), and your Favorites may not function properly, leading you to unknown pages.
- Lastly, ad-supported windows can appear without warning, even when you’re not browsing the internet or using any apps.
If your computer displays symptoms such as browser hijacking or the appearance of random advertisement windows, you should start suspecting a potential infection. However, if the only symptom is slow performance, it could be a simple software failure.
If you believe your Mac is infected, avoid searching for specific virus or malware removal instructions on Google. These searches often lead to websites recommending software to remove the infection, which may be another disguised malware (such as MacDefender or MacKeeper).
These deceptive websites are convincing and designed to scam users, allowing attackers to expand their infected network. They are aimed at people seeking solutions to their problems and can ultimately trick them into paying for useless software.
How can Macs be infected with malware.?
Malware can infect Macs through various methods. If you suspect that your Mac is infected, review the following list to see if you have encountered any of these issues:
1. Malicious Software or Applications
As previously noted, malware is often disguised within legitimate software, making it difficult to detect malicious applications. Attackers may use maintenance software, fake antivirus programs, and even games to spread malware.
To avoid falling victim to this type of infection, it’s best to avoid installing any program unless you are confident of its legitimacy. If you have doubts, it’s recommended to consult with others who have used the program or seek help from specialized forums or blogs.
2. Infected Files
Malware and viruses can also disguise themselves as images, text, or PDF files, which can be particularly effective in targeting users with limited knowledge of the subject.
To prevent such infections, it’s best to avoid opening any file on your computer’s desktop or in a folder if you don’t know its origin.
3. Legitimate Software with Malware
Malware and viruses can exploit security vulnerabilities in macOS or any other installed program to gain access to your computer. For example, attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in Safari to execute malware when you visit an infected website.
It’s also common for attackers to embed their malicious software inside legitimate software installers to infect users during installation.
To prevent these attacks, it’s essential to be cautious when browsing and avoid visiting suspicious websites. Additionally, you should only install software from trusted sources and avoid downloading pirated software from any website, as it may have been modified to include malware or viruses.
4. Fake Update Notifications
When browsing the Internet, it’s common to encounter windows that advertise fake antivirus or fake updates for add-ons like Flash. It’s crucial to close these windows immediately and avoid installing any software they offer since it’s most likely malware.
5. Scam Technical Assistance
Similar to the previous point, you may come across warnings that claim your Mac is infected with a virus and offer software to clean it. If you accept and install the software, you will install malware that can harm your computer.
In this case, it is best to close the window immediately and never install anything without being sure it comes from a trustworthy source. Don’t fall for false claims that could potentially harm your computer.
macOS offers a certain level of protection natively
For several generations of macOS (formerly known as Mac OS X), the operating system integrates a certain level of protection against malware and viruses. The central protection systems are as follows:
Gatekeeper and File Quarantine
Upon opening an application for the first time on your Mac, a window will appear indicating its origin and download date. You can open it by clicking the “accept” button, except for applications downloaded from the Mac App Store, which are already reviewed and trusted by Apple.
It’s important to note that you should not install any application not signed and recognized by Apple.
The Xprotect feature in macOS scans files downloaded and opened for the first time. If a known virus or malware is detected, it will prompt the user to move it to the trash.
This security system has been highly effective in preventing the spread of malware attacks on Macs. As a result, attackers have not targeted Macs as much since infecting many computers is difficult for them.
How to Detect Viruses and Malware on Mac? 9 tips to minimize the damage
If you suspect that your Mac is infected with malware or viruses after reading the above information, here are 9 tips to minimize the damage and remove the malicious software:
If you suspect that your Mac is infected with malware, it is important to be cautious when typing in any passwords. Attackers often use hidden keyloggers to steal passwords and track everything you type. Furthermore, you should avoid opening any documents that contain sensitive information or passwords to copy and paste. Keyloggers can capture screenshots periodically and send them to attackers, giving them access to your information even if you are not directly typing it.
1. Disconnect your MAC from the Internet
The primary objective of malware is often to steal data or utilize the computer’s resources for malicious purposes, such as launching attacks on other networks or conducting cryptocurrency mining. To prevent further damage, it is advisable to limit the Internet connection to stop attackers from accessing the computer’s resources or data.
You can disconnect the Ethernet cable if you use a wired network or turn off the WiFi connection if you use a wireless network. Do not reconnect the computer until you confirm the disinfection process is complete.
2. Check the Activity Monitor
Launch Activity Monitor from the utility folder within the Applications directory to check for any suspicious activity on your Mac. Review the running task list and look for any process that consumes an unusual amount of resources or any software you do not recognize, and the suspect may be malware.
If you identify any suspicious process, select it from the list and click on the X icon in the Activity Monitor toolbar to quit it entirely.
3. Restore a Backup Copy
If you suspect that your Mac has been infected and can pinpoint when it happened (such as remembering to install the software of dubious origin or accessing a supposed security software recommended by a website ad), restoring from a previous backup could be an effective solution.
Use Time Machine or your backup software to restore to a time before the infection occurred. Additionally, avoid connecting any removable drives during the infection and clean them with a Windows PC with updated antivirus software (even though the virus is for Mac, antivirus programs can detect malware intended for other operating systems).
4. Clean Malware or Viruses using 3rd Party Tools
Various solutions are available in the market to clean a Mac from viruses and malware; most of them are efficient tools that can help with the process.
Once the antivirus software is installed, it updates its virus definition database and runs a thorough scan. This ensures that it searches deeply and eliminates all malware it can detect.
The scanning process may take several hours, but it is recommended to exercise patience and allow the antivirus to do its job correctly.
Here are some Best Antivirus for Mac: Best Options in 2023
5. Leaked Credit Card Details
If you suspect that a file or application has infected your Mac, the first step is to move it to the trash and then thoroughly empty the trash to remove the source of infection from the computer.
Additionally, if you made any payment to obtain that file, for instance, by falling into the trap of fake antivirus software, you should immediately contact your bank. Explain the situation to them and ask for guidance on what steps to take. Although it may not be possible to recover your money, your bank can block your card and issue a new one to prevent any fraudulent use or at least increase the monitoring of your account activity.
6. Clear Cache Files
Another important point when cleaning a virus or malware infection is to clean the cache of the Mac and the browsers installed on it.
In this article, you can see How to Clear the Cache on Mac and Recover a LOT of Storage Space, and you can also check the preferences section of the browsers to clean them (the process is a little different in each one).
7. Empty the Downloads folder
Typically, the Downloads folder is where browsers save downloaded files, and it is a common source of malware and viruses.
To clean up this folder, open it, select all the files inside, and move them to the trash. Afterward, empty the trash to ensure that no potential source of infection remains on your computer.
9. Change all passwords
Changing all your passwords is advisable once you are confident that the infection has been completely removed. This includes passwords for various accounts such as your Mac user account, email, online banking, and other web services.
10. Reinstall macOS
Suppose you are still uncertain whether the malware or virus has been completely removed from your Mac after following all the previous steps. In that case, performing a clean reinstall of macOS is highly recommended. To ensure the malware is completely gone, use Disk Utility to erase the hard drive or SSD before reinstalling macOS.
By doing so, you will delete everything on the storage system of the Mac and reinstall macOS from scratch, ensuring that the malicious software is entirely eliminated without any doubts.
You can also read: Best Antivirus for Mac: Best Options in 2023