Debunking IT Myths: Are Macs Immune to Viruses?

It's a common belief that Apple Macs are immune to viruses. But are they really that insusceptible?

It’s a common belief that Apple Macs are immune to viruses. When Macs first came about, they were portrayed as secure machines invincible to threats, with Apple claiming that they have one of the safest operating system platforms. But are they really that insusceptible? Unfortunately, the answer is no. So why do so many people hold this misconception?

A few years ago, Apple announced that their Mac’s ‘don’t get PC viruses’. Like a red rag to a bull, the cybercriminals came charging and began developing a host of new viruses aimed directly at Mac users. Apple has since changed their statement on the safety of their computers to ‘built to be safe’.


Are Macs Safer?

Firstly, you need to understand why computers get viruses. Viruses are always written for a specific platform, so a virus written for Windows can only run on a Windows machine. Much like the common cold, the aim of a computer virus is to spread to as many other machines as possible. With this in mind, cybercriminals are obviously going to target the most popular platform in order to get the best return on their attack, which happens to be Windows. Until more recently, hackers considered Macs a less appealing target because they weren’t nearly as popular as Windows. In 2018, the Apple Mac accounted for just less than 9% of the market, and Windows counted for 88.53%.

This gave Mac users what is referred to as ‘security through minority’. Attackers tend not to bother with targeting Macs because their attacks aren’t as scalable. So, Mac’s aren’t immune to viruses, they are just less exposed to threat.

Threats to MacOS Users

It’s now 2020 and the popularity of these platforms have changed, both with consumers and hackers. Today there are new threats, such as malware designed to gain access to cryptocurrency, phishing attacks and adware. During the first half of 2019, almost 6 million phishing attacks on MacOS users were recorded. The majority of threats for Macs during 2019 were AdWare attacks. Of these, the Shayler family, which disguises itself as an Adobe flash player update has been the most prevalent.


Despite this, Macs do remain a more secure option. This is partly due to the fact that far more viruses and malware still target Windows machines than any other system, and partly thanks to the fact that the Mac operating system is Unix-based, meaning that it comes with a number of built-in security features. Plus, Apple itself has included a number of security measures that make attacking a Mac more challenging than Windows. One of these is Gatekeeper, which blocks software that hasn’t been digitally approved by Apple from being installed on your Mac without your consent.

Should you install anti-virus software for your Mac?

With the increasing interest in Macs from malware distributors, are Apple’s inbuilt protectors enough, or should you install anti-virus software? A recent survey of 500 IT professionals from various organisations found that 96% of businesses now support Macs. So, if you are one of these people and deploy Macs in your business, here is what you can do to ensure your system is secure.

  • Definitely install an anti-virus software – Downloading some good anti-virus or anti-malware software to scan your computer for infection and block future threats can help you avoid becoming a victim of this growing scourge of malicious software.
  • Keep on top of software updates – In order to keep your Mac best equipped to handle vulnerabilities and avoid viruses, updating software regularly is imperative.
  • Back up regularly – Things do go wrong from time to time, no matter what precautions you may take. Making a habit of backing up your data every week or two will save you the chaos of having something go wrong and losing all of your files. A full-time machine back up is one option, and probably the easiest way to clone your entire hard drive for easy restoration later on.
  • Invest in education and training – If you are equipping your staff with Macs, make sure that they are made aware of these virus and malware threats and they are trained to identify and avoid them.
  • Hire an IT service partner – An IT partner will provide you with IT support, manage your software updates and install anti-virus protection for you

Whether a Mac or Windows user, ensuring your business is fully protected against threat has never been more essential. At Vital we have a suite of software to help. So if you’re worried about your security online, take your first steps and call us on 0333 241 9301 to speak to one of our security specialists or arrange a callback.