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Don’t Think You Need Anti-Virus for Your Mac? Think Again!

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Having Anti-Virus (AV) software installed on your devices really is a non-negotiable. Four years ago in 2015, the global cost of malware was $500 billion. In just four years, the economic toll has quadrupled to $2 trillion USD! What’s more, we saw a significant rise in spyware (super sneaky software that spy’s on us and secretly exfiltrates our personal data to cyber criminals) increasing by a massive 27% (MalwareBytes Labs Malware Report, 2019).

A good anti-virus program will protect us from all these kinds of attacks (from virus’s, malware, ransomware, spyware and much more) but many people are still under the illusion that Apple products are significantly more secure than other types of device. Let’s look at this now…

Which devices should we install anti-virus software on?

The short answer is this – the only operating system that you don’t need to have an anti-virus program or app installed on is iOS devices (iPhones and iPads). Macbooks, windows, android users all need to have an AV. Why do Mac laptops and PCs need an AV but apple iPhones and iPads don’t? Apple laptops and PCs run off a different operating system (macOS) to iPhones and iPads (iOS). macOS is designed completely differently to iOS and without going into the technical details, needs an AV to protect it.

Which anti-virus should we use?

Before I make my recommendations, let me say I do not get commission from any third party. I am wholly independent and recommend products on merit only.

Luckily, there are some good all-in-one packages that make protecting against these kinds of threats a walk in the park!

Our AV needs to use something called ‘behavioural based detection’ (not signature based). Signature-based can only detect virus that we already know about. Behavioural systems identify threats by abnormal activity on your computer and so have the ability to detect both already known attack types and new ones too. Many computers today come with some form of AV built in (e.g. Windows Defender), however, a lot of these are not up to scratch. Therefore, we need to select our own anti-virus program we know is tried and tested!

You can get both paid for and free AV software – some of the free products are actually quite impressive. Having reviewed results from independent antivirus testing labs, the best products in my opinion are as follows.

Laptops and PCs;

a) Bitdefender Antivirus Plus – this is the one I have and it’s fantastic. It offers 30-day free trial of the full version so you can road test it first and it only costs £39.99 per year (1 device). It’s great for both Mac and PCs. During lab testing, this product blocked 100% of all viruses and malware that was thrown at it , all while having zero negative impact on system performance.

Some of its other great features I really like are that it has a multi-layered approach to ransomware defence which most products still don’t have. It integrates with your web browser and secures your online shopping experience by preventing phishing and identity theft type attacks.

But best of all, it has an autopilot function which once switched on means that it’ll automatically scan, update itself and deal with any threats all by itself without any intervention required from us. They even throw in a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for free so it’s even better value! To find out more about VPNs checkout my dedicated post on them here.

b) Avast – the free alternative is Avast but beware, in order to make it free they bundle in some unnecessary other software so be sure to remove it once installed! A small price to pay for a premium AV at zero cost though I’d say.

The cost of these is minimal for the level of protection you receive and both embody behavioural based detection so you know you are getting the most advanced protection available.

Top Tip: for those who have Windows Defender Security Centre (which provides anti-virus, firewall and parental control capabilities) I would disable the ‘Virus & Threat Protection’ (the anti-virus) and have Bitdefender Antivirus Plus recommended above as this default Windows AV is not particularly good for malware and has no protection against ransomware. Installing a third-party antivirus like Bitdefender should disable the Windows Defender Antivirus automatically and it won’t affect the functionality of the other Windows Defender Security Centre functionalities.

Mobile Devices;

As already mentioned, we don’t need AV for iPhones and iPads. Why? Apple iOS devices are more resilient to malware threats than Android phones, due to the sandboxing technology that Apple iOS devices use.

In order for the AV to do its job it needs ‘hooks’ into the operating system in order to perform the deep monitoring they do to detect malware. However, as security is at the heart of the iOS operating system, iOS devices don’t permit this kind of access to any kind of app, including anti-virus (AV) apps! Therefore, even if we did use an iOS AV it wouldn’t be allowed to work anyway. Furthermore, because AVs require this deep level of access to the OS, installing an AV on iOS could actually make your device more vulnerable as the antivirus software could become the target of attack [1]! This doesn’t mean that iOS is impenetrable, far from it, but it does mean it is more difficult for malware to spread across it compared to other platforms. So, the best security for an iOS device such as an iPad or iPhone is actually the in-built security of the device itself!

So, if you do only own iOS devices, then all you need do is ensure you install the iOS system updates as soon as you’re prompted to as these contain important security fixes. Apple Macs however use a different operating system to iOS called MacOS. Much like other platforms like Android and Windows, these have known vulnerabilities which need an anti-virus to protect it.

If you have an Android device, I’d recommend Norton Security & Antivirus. It has a strong malware monitoring capability, if you opt for the paid version it’ll cover up to 10 devices (great for families), has an ‘App Advisor’ for Google Play app store to ensure you’re only downloading safe apps and has a well-designed user interface (Free).

Hopefully that clears a few things up for you. As always, if you have any questions get in contact!

 

References:

[1] https://www.tomsguide.com/us/iphones-dont-need-antivirus-software,news-23111.html

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