Does your Mac need antivirus software?

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As a Mac user, you’ve probably heard that you don’t need antivirus protection for your system, because hackers don’t write malware for macOS. But that is changing — or, to be more accurate, it has changed.

Hackers have caught on that Mac users are low-hanging fruit, precisely because many of them don’t install antivirus software. And, as more Windows PC users wise up and secure their devices, Mac users look like even more appealing targets.

That means the time has come to install antivirus software on your Mac, if you haven’t already. It can help fill the gaps in Mac’s built-in security features, and protect you from the most common cause of cyber attacks — user error.

Mac’s Built-in Security Features Are Lacking

macOS relies on a robust permissions structure to protect the system from malware, and 20 or 25 years ago, that may have been enough. XProtect runs in the background, quietly scanning files as they’re opened, without sacrificing performance.

Gatekeeper checks downloaded apps for Apple developer certificates to make sure they’re okay. And sandboxing of apps ensures that downloaded apps only have the system resources they need to function, and can’t go rooting around in your directories or looking for your sensitive files.

But these systems all have major flaws. XProtect, for example, has a shockingly tiny malicious signatures dictionary — it’s only got 94 entries. Literally, any other antivirus software has a longer definitions list than that, and the definitions list is a primary tool these programs use to look for malware — they tell the software how to recognize malicious code. If a specific piece of malware’s signature is not on the list, XProtect won’t recognize it as malware, even if it very much is.

Gatekeeper has its drawbacks, too. For one thing, an Apple developer signature doesn’t actually say much about how trustworthy or untrustworthy a given piece of software is. Plenty of totally legitimate programs don’t have Apple developer signatures. For example, many open-source developers don’t see the point in paying the fee to get an Apple developer certificate for their piece of software that they plan to give out for free, and…

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