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I have just read news about Mac OS X vulnerabilities and wondered why would people say that you don't need an antivirus if you are using a Mac?

There are vulnerabilities in other operating systems but at least someone can be a bit safer by having an antivirus which is recommended to Windows users for example.

Some of these vulnerabilities included "execute code". Wouldn't this lead to virus/malware etc.?

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    Who says that you don't need AV on Mac? I haven't seen that advice in years. – schroeder Apr 23 '16 at 22:30
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    FWIW, OS X does contain an anti-viruse software called XProtect, which does get updated malware detection signatures from Apple. I can't comment on how good it is, but I find most people have no idea that this feature even exists (except maybe by a warning if they actually try to run some malware). – Alexander O'Mara Apr 24 '16 at 1:04
  • @schroeder, Thank you for your response. The claims that Macs don't need an Antivirus for whatever reason exist. One of them pcadvisor.co.uk/feature/security/… from 2013. I wonder how you couldn't see such advises in years. Check the article for more info on why they say it's not needed – Seetar Apr 24 '16 at 13:28
  • @Seetar that was from 3 years ago, and if you read the article, they reverse their 'opinion' from the start of the article to say that it's a risk. That article is actually very clear on specific details related to your question ... – schroeder Apr 24 '16 at 15:27
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I think you're hearing information that was generally thought by not so tech savvy people that a Mac doesn't require AV, or is less susceptible to attacks. That's a very bad assumption, and the idea was brought about by individuals who gave Windows a bad stigma, and were pro-Apple.

Some individuals learn that Mac is based on Unix/Linux. They learn, or rather think, that Linux is more secure than Windows, or they hear that Windows is insecure. While this can be somewhat true and I would be more willing to say Linux is a little more secure than Windows, it still doesn't make the system immune. The reasoning behind this logic was at the time a lot of vulnerabilities were posted that were related to Windows Operating Systems because of the fact that a lot of businesses used Windows. So a lot of early on attacks were targeting Windows OS's because they were the go to in the corporate world, and even in today's world most businesses will have a majority of their systems running Windows.

Mac is no less vulnerable to attacks then Windows or any Linux distro. It's important for any individual using technology to have a basic understanding of potential security threats and vulnerabilities. Without going into too much detail, it's true that Windows is much different than a Unix/Linux based OS, they both have their strengths and weaknesses and both are susceptible to attack.

Macs can and will get malware just like the rest of the operating system world, and Macs can and will get attacked just like the rest of the Operating System world.

When it comes to security arrogance is a downfall.

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Vulnerabilities aren't the same as viruses/malware.

A vulnerability is a flaw in the operating system or a legitimate program that allows unexpected, unauthorized, and unwanted control of the computer.

Common types of vulnerabilities are:

  • execute code: Flaw in program/OS allows attacker to run arbitrary code, programs, or instructions.
  • elevation of privileges: Attacker (or attacker's program) finds a way to run with higher privileges (usually as admin or root) than it should have
  • unauthenticated access: Attacker gains authenticated access to computer with no valid login

Some vulnerabilities can be combined/chained together for massive damage. For example, if a computer had all 3 of those vulnerabilities, an attacker could potentially gain authenticated access with no valid login, elevate privileges to root, then wipe or rig all system files.

Rules of thumb to avoid exploits and vulnerabilities:

  • Keep the operating system patched and up-to-date.
  • Keep your firewall up at all times; block incoming connections and only open ports when needed (close them when finished)
  • If you are running programs that need to accept incoming connections (such as a server program), keep them patched and up-to-date.
  • Disable/uninstall known vulnerable programs where no patch exists to fix them.
  • Use a regular (non-admin) user account; have a separate admin account for admin tasks only.

Antimalware/antivirus is a different type of protection entirely. Malware and viruses are programs/parts of programs, and antimalware/antivirus specifically scans for those and attempts to block them from running or remove them entirely. Antimalware might stop malicious code execution via an "execute code" vulnerability - only if the code was flagged as malicious. On the other hand, if the malicious code looks legitimate (such as "Delete all files in this directory") then the antimalware wouldn't block it.


While Mac OS definitely has better built-in protection against viruses and malware, there's no foolproof OS - particularly when so many users are willing to give any downloaded program admin privileges on install.

Most of those articles claiming that Mac OS doesn't need antimalware or antivirus are an artifact from the old days when Macs were much more uncommon (malware usually targets the largest amount of computers for the minimal amount of effort). After 2013, Macs became much more popular (probably related to Windows 8/8.1/10) and a bigger target for malware.

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