Antivirus Test For Mac

Posted onby admin

When you think of computer security, you probably think of antivirus (aka anti-malware). And you probably associate antivirus with Windows, because Macs have a reputation for being more secure than Windows. As a Mac user, you probably wonder whether your Mac needs anti-malware software, and if so, how to choose the right software. Let’s look at the data to find answers.

The current tests of antivirus software for MacOS Catalina from June 2020 of AV-TEST, the leading international and independent service provider for antivirus software and malware. Avira Free Antivirus for Windows continues to score highly on AV-TEST's stringent testing program, quashing 99.7% of tested threats, and it generally doesn't put too big a burden on your hardware. The current test Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac 8.1 for MacOS Catalina (202004) from June 2020 of AV-TEST, the leading international and independent service provider for antivirus software and malware. The current tests of antivirus software from McAfee of AV-TEST, the leading international and independent service provider for antivirus software and malware. Test ID Test Platform FilterTestmethod FilterPlatform Release Date FilterUsertype FilterReleaseDate; 31209: Real-World Protection Test July-August 2020 – Factsheet: Microsoft Windows: testmethod32: platform5: September 2020: usertype62: 20200915: 31126: Anti-Phishing Certification Trend Micro 2020: Microsoft Windows: testmethod.

Note: This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see Affiliate Disclosure.

In a hurry? If you want a free option, consider Avast Security for Mac. If you want a paid option, consider Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac. If you want more options, here’s the Mac anti-malware that has the best test results from AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST:

BitDefender For Mac: Protect Your Device Against Threats

BitDefender For Mac gives you protection against Mac malware. Quick to install and light on your computer resources. The only free antivirus that you will ever need.

We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

The Threats

Early in my IT career, I removed countless pieces of malware from consumer and business Windows PCs. I’ve seen firsthand the damage malware can do. I hope you haven’t been a victim of malware!

Do you need antivirus (anti-malware) for your Mac (MacBook, iMac, or Mac Mini)? Unsurprisingly, makers of Mac security software are happy to tell you about all the malware that could be targeting your Mac. I try to base my advice on data rather than on marketing, so let’s look at the data.

Before we continue, allow me to define anti-malware. It’s software that prevents and/or removes malware (malicious software) from a device. The term antivirus is often used for software that’s anti-malware, because it fights not only viruses but other forms of malware.

Mac Malware Exists

Any software can be compromised, and macOS is no exception. Although there’s a lot less malware for macOS than for Windows, it does exist.

Whilst it is certainly true that the population of macOS malware is very tiny compared to that for Windows and Android, there have been instances of macOS malware getting into the wild.

Mac Security Test & Review 2019 (av-comparatives.org)

From 2012 to 2017, the number of macOS users who have experienced attacks from malicious and potentially unwanted programs grew, approaching 255,000 attacked users per year. However, starting in 2018, the number of attacked users began to decrease, and in the first half of 2019, it only amounted to 87,000.

The number of attacks on macOS users through malicious and potentially unwanted programs has been increasing annually since 2012, and in 2018 it exceeded 4 million attacks. During the first half of 2019, we registered 1.8 million attacks of this kind.

The vast majority of threats for macOS in 2019 were in the AdWare category.

Threats to macOS users (securelist.com)

Attackers will likely increase their focus on the operating system, but the platform is still far from a popular target … Currently, only 3% of WatchGuard’s network devices encountered malware targeting Mac OS. …

WatchGuard is not the only company to see an increase in malware tailored to the Mac OS. Security-software firm Malwarebyte noted an increase in Mac malware, detecting some 16 million instances in just April, four times more than the previous monthly record over the past year.

“The data does indicate there is a rise in the prevalence of threats,” … the rise is likely connected to increasing popularity.

For the most part, adware is driving the increase. WatchGuard noted that the most detected Mac malware program installed adware. For Malwarebytes, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) accounted for the largest category of Mac detections, followed by adware. …

“Mac does have some nice security features, but they’re fairly easy to bypass,” …

While we have seen Mac malware, we have not seen a vulnerability be exploited in Mac software in the same way as on Windows.”

Malware Coming to a Mac Near You? Yes, Say Security Firms (darkreading.com)

Note that Mac malware is mostly potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) and adware, both of which are less dangerous than other forms of malware.

Security Software Built into macOS

Fortunately, Apple has included some anti-malware functionality in macOS:

  • Gatekeeper: checks software that you download from outside the App Store
  • XProtect (link is to PDF): detects and blocks the installation of known malware
  • Malware removal tool (link is to PDF): removes known malware

However, these don’t provide 100% protection. XProtect and the malware removal tool recognize malware based on lists provided by Apple, so they can’t recognize malware that Apple hasn’t yet added to the lists.

it’s certainly not an essential requirement to install antivirus software on your Mac. Apple does a pretty good job of keeping on top of vulnerabilities and exploits and the updates to the macOS that will protect your Mac will be pushed out over auto-update very quickly. … However, sometimes Apple doesn’t respond as quickly as Mac users might hope. In that case, there are some free antivirus apps that might give you some peace of mind.

Can Macs Get Viruses & Do Macs Need Antivirus Software? (macworld.co.uk)

Apple’s macOS includes some good security features that are helpful, but new malware easily bypasses them. In addition, they still don’t address the adware and PUP problem at all. Because of this, macOS cannot and should not be considered bulletproof.

The state of Mac malware (malwarebytes.com)

Test Antivirus Macbook

The effectiveness of Apple’s built-in anti-malware features has been questioned, however, and some security experts recommend strengthening the defenses by adding in a third-party antivirus package. There are many good reasons for this. Firstly, the approach taken by Apple might be adequate for well-established malware, but might not respond quickly enough to emerging threats. Secondly, you might want a broader base of malware evaluation. Thirdly, macOS is not immune to bugs.

Mac Security Test & Review 2019 (av-comparatives.org)

In the book Cyber Smart, Bart R. McDonough says that there’s far less malware for Macs than Windows, but there are adware, spyware, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that macOS doesn’t protect against, but anti-malware can protect against.

User Behavior

As is always the case with security, you need to account for the human user. Operating systems and third-party anti-malware can only do so much to protect you from yourself!

Generally speaking, a well-secured Mac that has regularly updated system software and apps, and some savviness from the user – including following some simple tips to help secure a Mac from malware and viruses like not downloading sketchy stuff from untrustworthy dubious websites and not installing browser plugins – is enough to prevent Macs from finding any malware, junkware, adware, ransomware, or any other nefarious stuff on their Mac, but nonetheless, infections can still happen.

How to Install Malwarebytes on Mac to Scan for Malware & Adware (osxdaily.com)

Experienced and responsible Mac users who are careful about which programs they install, and which sources they obtain them from, may well argue – very reasonably – that they are not at risk from Mac malware. However, we feel that non-expert users, children, and users who frequently like to experiment with new software, could definitely benefit from having security software on their Mac systems, in addition to the security features provided by the macOS itself.

Mac Security Test & Review 2019 (av-comparatives.org)

Notice the mention of children in the last quote. You’ve probably noticed that your young kids are less experienced with navigating the Web than the average adult. Young kids are always exploring online, visiting a variety of websites, and installing games and other software. For these reasons, and because they don’t yet understand Internet safety, kids are likely to encounter malware.

How to Increase Your Security

There are many options when it comes to Mac anti-malware:

Antivirus Test For Covid-19

  • Don’t use any anti-malware (beyond what’s built into macOS)
  • Use free anti-malware
  • Use paid anti-malware
  • Run on-demand scans (which run only when you start them)
  • Run real-time scanning (which runs in the background as you use your Mac)

If after reading this far you’d like to install anti-malware software on your Mac, which should you use?

I mentioned earlier that I like to base decisions on data rather than marketing. Fortunately, some organizations test the effectiveness of Mac anti-malware. As much as I would love to conduct such testing on my own, unfortunately I don’t have the resources.

How to Find Mac Antivirus Ratings

These two independent organizations test Mac anti-malware detection rates in their labs, and report the test results.

When considering anti-malware, look at the latest ratings, and then look at the ratings over the last 2-3 years to get an idea for their track record.

Mac Antivirus with Best Test Results

Looking at the test results for the last 3 years from AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST, here’s the Mac anti-malware that has the best test results, in alphabetical order.

Bitdefender has consistently earned high ratings from multiple organizations over the years, and I recommend their products.

BitDefender For Mac: Protect Your Device Against Threats

BitDefender For Mac gives you protection against Mac malware. Quick to install and light on your computer resources. The only free antivirus that you will ever need.

We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Best Free Antivirus for Mac

You may be wondering, is it necessary to pay for Mac antivirus, or can I use free antivirus? Well, one of the products listed above, which tested well, as free:

Avast Free: Award Winning Antivirus And VPN

Avast Free is packed with the largest threat-detection network, machine-learning virus protection, and home network security that will not slow down your PC.

Antivirus Test For Mac
We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

You may be able to find free versions of the best paid Mac antivirus software (listed below). It’s not clear whether these prevent and remove malware as well as the paid versions. It depends whether they use the same scanning engines as the paid versions (many do), and which features are included in the free versions.

Free products can do as well as paid products in detecting, preventing, and removing malware. Paid products generally include more features, such as web filtering, a VPN, etc. You can also pay to upgrade from the free Avast software to get more features.

Best Paid Antivirus for Mac

If we remove the free option, here are the best-paid antivirus products for Mac:

Avira Pro: Next-Generation Antivirus Protection

Avira Pro protects your devices from malware, spyware, ransomware, and adware. It lets you bank, shop, pay, and email with complete confidence.

We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Trend Micro for Mac: Advanced Online Protection

Trend Micro for Mac protects your device against online threats such as ransomware, spyware, malware, and evolving viruses.

We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Mac Antivirus that Runs On-Demand Only, Not in Background

Anti-malware software usually runs in the background on your Mac, scanning files as you work with them. This is called real-time scanning or on-access scanning or background scanning. Most software also lets you run on-demand scans, meaning that the scan runs when you click the scan button. Some Mac anti-malware runs on-demand only; it doesn’t do real-time scanning.

The risk with on-demand only is that it’s completely reactive; it only catches malware when it scans. The rest of the time, you’re only protected by what’s built into macOS. If you’re not very tech-savvy, or you visit shady websites or install shady software (or you have kids who do), you should have real-time scanning.

I’m aware of 3 on-demand Mac malware scanners (anti-malware that runs on-demand only, not in the background):

These aren’t rated by AV-Comparatives or AV-TEST, and I wasn’t able to find test results from other sources. Bitdefender’s paid product, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, has good test results, but I don’t know how similar the scanner in the free product is to the paid ones. Bitdefender has consistently earned high ratings from multiple organizations over the years, and I recommend their products.

There’s no harm in installing more than one of these and running scans regularly (one after the other, not at the same time).

If you use Malwarebytes for Mac, don’t be alarmed if it’s scan runs very quickly (sometimes less than a minute). Malwarebytes says, “The reason is that Malwarebytes is performing what’s called a ‘quick scan.’ Rather than scanning the entire hard drive for files that are known to only be installed in specific locations, it simply looks for those things in those specific locations.”

Best Mac Antivirus for You & Your Family

I’ve shared a lot of info with you, but which Mac antivirus should you pick for yourself and your family?

I recommend that you install a third-party anti-malware, whether free or paid. If you want a free option, consider Avast Security for Mac. If you want a paid option, consider Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac.

If you’d like other options, here is the list of the most effective anti-malware as tested by AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST:

Bitdefender has consistently earned high ratings from multiple organizations over the years, and I recommend their products.

I recommend that at a minimum, you run an on-demand scan every week. If you’re not very tech-savvy, or you visit shady websites or install shady software, or your kids use your Mac, you should have real-time scanning enabled.

In case you missed that part about your kids using your Mac, I’ll repeat. You’ve probably noticed that your young kids are less experienced with navigating the Web than the average adult. Young kids are always exploring online, visiting a variety of websites and installing games, and other software. For these reasons, and because they don’t yet understand Internet safety, kids are likely to encounter malware. For their sakes, and yours, you want a good anti-malware with real-time scanning.

Let’s say you don’t share your Mac with kids, and you opt to do on-demand scans rather than real-time scanning, and months or years pass without your on-demand scans finding any malware. In that case, you’re probably fine to continue with on-demand rather than real-time scans. However, if your on-demand scans find malware, then I highly recommend that you start using real-time scanning.

Also, check out my Apple macOS Security and Privacy Guide.

Additional Resources

  • AV-Comparatives Test Results (av-comparatives.org)
  • The best MacOS antivirus software for home users (av-test.org)
  • Apple macOS Security & Privacy Guide (defendingdigital.com)

What You Should Do

  1. Choose and install a third-party anti-malware, whether free or paid. Choose one with good test results (see above). If you want a free option, consider Avast Security for Mac. If you want a paid option, consider Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac.
  2. At a minimum, run an on-demand scan every week. If you’re not very tech-savvy, or you visit shady websites or install shady software, or your kids use your Mac, you should have real-time scanning enabled.
  3. If you’re using on-demand only anti-malware, and your scans find malware, then start using real-time scanning.
BitDefender For Mac: Protect Your Device Against Threats

BitDefender For Mac gives you protection against Mac malware. Quick to install and light on your computer resources. The only free antivirus that you will ever need.

We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

It’s fair to say there’s less risk of malware attacks on a Mac than a PC, but does that mean you can skip antivirus altogether?

For years, we’ve been told that Macs can’t get viruses. But no computer is immune from cyber attacks, so each year we test Mac antivirus software to their limits with hundreds of virus attacks including worms and ransomware to see how they fare. Read on to see your protection options.

Browse all our antivirus software reviews, or skip straight to the best antivirus packages from our tough tests.

Built-in Mac security

There aren’t many viruses for Mac computers, which makes them hard to come by. Our lab tests Windows antivirus software with several thousand Windows-specific viruses each year, but tests only a few dozen on Mac computers. That isn’t to say that it’s impossible to catch a Mac virus, but the number of different strains is much smaller.

MacOS is secure by design. It requires a number of steps to allow a virus to run on your machine and needs you, the user, to intervene for any program – be it a virus or otherwise – to gain access to critical system files. In short, it’s actually quite tricky to get infected by Malware on an Mac.

Why you should still consider anitivirus for Mac

Even if you don’t let a piece of malware run, we have found that macOS’ built-in security scanning doesn’t reliably detect dormant viruses just sitting on the hard drive. If you never had any intention of running the viruses yourself, you could inadvertently share them with somebody you know who might not be so fortunate.

And there’s more to antivirus than simply protection from viruses. Almost all the security suites we test come with additional protection against phishing attacks, where websites pretend to be legit in order to steal your data. We have found that the very best Mac security suites will also bolster your phishing protection quite significantly, and perform better than the protection built into the Mac versions of Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera web browsers. For this reason, if you’re nervous about threats on the web, it would make sense to at least consider a Mac security suite.

Antivirus options for Apple Macs

While there’s no cheap way to get yourself a Mac, those who don’t fancy a yearly subscription to a security suite can rest easy in the knowledge that this year we tested three free options, one of which was good enough to be a Best Buy.

If you’re a Which? member, you can see the very best antivirus options on our best antivirus for Mac advice guide. And for everybody else, we’ve highlighted five options from the biggest brands.

Paid antivirus for Mac

Norton Security Deluxe

One of the biggest names in antivirus has a relatively inexpensive Mac option. What’s more, if you have Windows computers in your household you can mix and match the different device types under the same subscription. Subscribing gets you various other benefits, although some, such as the 50GB of cloud storage, is only available for Windows computers. See whether it’s worth paying for in our Norton Security Deluxe for Mac review.

Kaspersky Internet Security

Kaspersky’s security suite includes basic protection as well as tools specifically designed to protect your files from ransomware and a bolstered web browser for banking. Like Norton, you can mix and match a Kaspersky multi-device Internet Security subscription between Windows and Macs. See if it’s worth the cost in our full Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac review.

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

It comes with phishing protection and a VPN for keeping your web browsing safe from prying eyes, but can this AV production take on its big-brand rivals? It’s performed well in our tests in previous years, so read our full Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac review to find out.

Free antivirus for Mac

AVG Antivirus for Mac (free)

If you don’t want extra features and also don’t fancy shelling out for yet another digital subscription, AVG Free might be the option for you. There are no frills, but it should deliver when it comes to basic protection, adding that last layer of defence for when all else fails. See how it fared in our antivirus lab test by reading the full AVG Antivirus for Mac review.

Avast Free Antivirus for Mac (free)

Avast and AVG are owned by the same company, so they should perform similarly in our tests. Included in the installation is Avast’s free password manager, which might come in handy if you’ve yet to set one up for yourself. Read our full Avast Free Antivirus for Mac review to see whether it’s a good free choice.

How we test antivirus

Our antivirus test lab is riddled with threats. It has set up dozens of computers in 40 countries around the world to act as ‘honeypots’ for millions of viruses. These honeypots capture viruses that are fresh into the wild and may have only existed for days. This makes the task for the security software very challenging, because many of them rely upon huge databases of so-called virus ‘definitions’ to tell whether or not a file is harmful.

Grabbing new threats means they will also have to rely on their own intuition – rather than simply checking a database – using more advanced techniques to decide if there’s a threat. We also use a mix of scenarios on both Windows and macOS, including viruses stored on USB sticks, and even malicious real-world phishing webpages designed to steal your data. Only the most secure software can fend off all these types of attacks effectively.

Malware can be more of a concern if you’re using an old phone. Read our guide on mobile phone security for more.