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Security & privacy

True or false: Macs are immune to malware and viruses

There is a common misconception that Apple’s Macs can’t get viruses or malware. The belief is that only Windows-based systems suffer from malicious code and all sorts of nasty bugs.

There is no consensus on where the claim originated. But it might have been Apple itself. Up until 2012, Apple’s marketing for its Mac computers included the line that “a Mac isn’t susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers.”

Possibly being called out on it, Apple removed the line in 2012 together with the claim that Mac “doesn’t get PC viruses” from all marketing material and the Mac website. An Apple executive now believes the Mac has a huge malware problem. Keep reading for the truth behind Apple and viruses.

Here’s the backstory

Since changing the marketing details for Apple’s best-selling personal computer, the company has publicly faced its malware reality. The truth to the claim is a bit twisted: Macs can get viruses, but it’s very uncommon for them to do so.

Apple executive Craig Federighi was recently asked why macOS supports different online stores for video games, but iOS doesn’t. His answer? Apple’s “dramatically higher bar” for personal safety, which macOS isn’t meeting.

“Today, we have a level of malware on Macs that we don’t find acceptable,” he told Judge Yvonne Gonzalez. Federighi testified in the ongoing Apple versus Epic Games lawsuit.

So, what’s the deal?

In short, it’s an economy of scale. Malware isn’t universally developed for all platforms but rather created for a specific operating system and a particular flaw. A flaw in a Windows program doesn’t mean there is a flaw in the macOS or Linux version.

Putting it into perspective, a hacker targeting a vulnerability in Windows can potentially attack 1.3 billion devices. Targeting macOS, the hacker can only reach 110 million. It is far more economical for a hacker to go after Windows than macOS.

But the long-believed theory that Apple devices are immune from viruses isn’t true. That’s why you need to protect your machine no matter which OS you use. For complete protection, we recommend our sponsor, TotalAV.

Right now, you can get complete protection for a whole year at ProtectWithKim.com for just $19. That’s over 85% off the regular price for a full year of coverage, just for my readers and listeners!

Here are some tips on how to avoid malware for macOS:

  • Never download pirated or unlicensed software.
  • Only use apps and programs from trusted sources.
  • Make sure your Mac has the latest version of macOS.
  • Reduce the number of administrators on the machine. This minimizes the chances of malware.

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