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Mac Malware and How to Avoid It

Academic Technology Consultant Christina Hazelton explains and shares tips related to recent Mac adware and viruses outbreaks.

​What is Mac Malware?

Malware is a malicious type of software that can infect a computer in many different ways, from changing settings on your web browser - to installing 3rd party apps that diminish the overall functionality of your computer. Malware can have a range impacts from showing popups and redirecting your web searches, to trying to snoop for data or collect information such as passwords, credit card, banking, and other personal data.

Many people are under the assumption that Macs don’t get viruses - this is simply untrue. While real “viruses” are less common among Macs than PCs, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t susceptible to infection. One of the most common issues we encounter with Macs is a type of malicious software call “Malware.”


A screenshot of a Mac malware example from How-To Geek.
A screenshot of a Mac malware example from How-To Geek.

Why are they becoming more popular?

Malware and viruses have been around since the early days of the internet. They continue to be popular ways for malicious individuals and organizations to find a variety of financial and other gains. The primary targets of these types of malicious infections tend to be businesses and banking institutions, which used to be fairly limited to Windows platforms. Macs have become much more popular for use in business, educational, and personal computers throughout the world, and those with ill intent have noticed.

How can I avoid this?

The long-held idea that “Macs don’t get viruses” has left many users with a false sense of security, and so often users may engage in activity on their computers that puts them at higher risk to falling vulnerable to web attacks.

There are some simple things you can do to help protect yourself from web attacks, viruses, malware, and other malicious content.

Tip 1: Be careful of installing programs using search results

Want to install a specific program or driver on your computer? It may seem logical to simply do a Google search to find the item you need, but this is often the easiest way to install viruses and malware on your computer. Malicious software producers want to fool you into believing that the program you are looking for is the one that they are offering. They will modify their own websites to appear at the top of search results lists, and they may have ads that sound very convincing.

Tip 2: Use mac app store

Applications that have been posted on the App Store have gone through a screening process to ensure that they do not contain viruses and malware that will harm your computer. Most software manufacturers now post their available apps directly to the Apple App Store so that you may find and purchase it easily.

Tip 3: Use official venues and talk to your local IT support

There are numerous false tech-support websites that appear to be associated with real companies and manufacturers. These imposters can appear as pop-ups or show up in your web searches. There are even scams where a supposed “Tech support” representative will call your home informing you that you need to install an update or software to protect your computer. This results in them getting open-access to your computer and anything containing your personal data. Talk to your local IT representative, or if you need support with a specific device or piece of software you can find the appropriate support numbers inside your user manual or warranty information package.

What do I do if I have malware?

Act quickly! If you believe that you may have malware or viruses on your computer it is very important that you have the computer assessed for infection as quickly as possible. Malware and hijacking viruses may be collecting data from your computer any time you connect to the internet, even if your computer appears to be operating OK.

The best way to have these types of infections remedied is to remove the computer from the internet and then begin a thorough scan with a legitimate virus or malware removal program. Depending on the severity of the infection it may require advanced removal by an IT professional. Manual removal of files, applications, or settings can result in damage to your operating system or data, so it’s always best to have your local IT support person have a look at the computer to ensure that it is cleaned properly in order to minimize the chance for a re-infection.

Where can I learn more?

When in doubt, always talk with your local IT support representative. We’re here to help you gain control over your computer.

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