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Do you really need an antivirus to protect a Mac?

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Need further assistance? Please call Member Services at Join Consumer Reports. Already a member? Welcome to Consumer Reports. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed. Get Started. These tips from CR's testers will help you find great malware protection—even some that's free.

By Bree Fowler. July 30, Sharing is Nice Yes, send me a copy of this email. Send We respect your privacy.

Best Antiviruses in 2018 - Which Is The Best Antivirus Software?

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Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac. Avast Free Mac Security for Mac. G Data Antivirus for Mac. Eset Multi-Device Security. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac. Norton Security Deluxe for Mac. Results in macOS-specific tests have a much smaller point spread than in tests of Windows antivirus utilities. It's good that many products in the chart received at least one certification for Mac protection, and even better that some received two certifications. When we test malware protection on Windows, we use live malware inside an isolated virtual machine.

We've coded a number of analysis tools over the years to help with this testing. Little of that testing regimen carries over to the Mac.

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  • Phishing, however, isn't platform-specific, and neither is our antiphishing test. Phishing websites imitate secure sites, everything from banks and finance sites to gaming and dating sites. If you enter your credentials at the fake login page, you've given the phisher access to your account. And it doesn't matter if you are browsing on a PC, a Mac, or an internet-aware sewing machine. Almost all of the products in chart above include protection against malicious and fraudulent sites.

    Malwarebytes and ProtectWorks also lack an antiphishing component. The wily malefactors who create phishing sites are in the business of deception, and they constantly change and update their techniques, hoping to evade detection. If one fraudulent site gets blacklisted or shut down by the authorities, they simply pop up with a new one. That being the case, we try to use the very newest phishing URLs for testing, scraping them from phishing-focused websites. We launch each URL simultaneously in four browsers. One is Safari on the Mac, protected by the Mac antivirus that's under test.

    The other three use the protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

    Best Antivirus Software for Windows and Mac - Consumer Reports

    Discarding any that don't fit the phishing profile, and any that don't load correctly in all four browsers, we report the product's success as the average of the difference between its detection rate and that of the other four test systems. Most of the products in this roundup beat the combined average of the three browsers.

    Bitdefender and Webroot in particular scored hugely higher against some browsers; perhaps the browsers were having a bad day. It's worth noting that, while phishing is platform-independent, phishing defense may not be. For example, Norton on Windows scored significantly better than Norton for the Mac. The scourge of ransomware is on the rise.

    Mac’s built-in malware detection

    While ransomware attacks are more common on Windows devices, Macs have suffered as well. Of course, any antivirus utility should handle ransomware just as it handles spyware, Trojans, viruses, and other malware types. But since the consequences of missing a ransomware attack are so great, some security products add components with the sole purpose of preventing ransomware attacks. We've observed a wide variety of ransomware protection techniques on Windows. These include blocking unauthorized access to user documents, detecting ransomware based on its activity, and recovering encrypted files from backup.

    Of the products listed here, Bitdefender and Trend Micro offer a ransomware component that blocks unauthorized modification of protected documents. As with Bitdefender's Windows edition, the Safe Files feature prevents all unauthorized access to your documents.

    On a Mac, it also protects your Time Machine backups. Trend Micro offers multiple layers of Windows ransomware protection. Folder Shield, which, like Safe Files, prevents unauthorized document access, is the only layer that made its way to the macOS edition. Sophos Home Premium includes the same CryptoGuard behavior-based ransomware protection found in its Windows equivalent. Our Windows test sytsems are virtual machines, so we feel free to release real-world ransomware for testing.

    We just roll back the virtual machine to a clean snapshot after testing. We don't have the option to do that on the physical Mac testbed, so we just have to figure that since it worked on Windows, it probably works on macOS. Any kind of malware problem is unpleasant, but spyware may be the most unnerving.

    Imagine some creeper secretly peeking at you through your Mac's webcam! Other types of spying include logging keystrokes to capture your passwords, sending Trojans to steal your personal data, and watching your online activities to build a profile. As with ransomware protection, we've observed more features specifically devoted to spyware protection on Windows-based security products than on the Mac, but a few products in this collection do pay special attention to spyware.

    Under Windows, Kaspersky's Safe Money feature opens sensitive sites in a secure browser that's hardened against outside interference. The Safe Money feature on the Mac doesn't do that, but it does check URLs to make sure you're on a legitimate secure site. Kaspersky offers an onscreen keyboard, so you can enter passwords with no chance of capture by a keylogger. Its webcam protection isn't as configurable as it is on Windows, but you can use it to disable your Mac's webcam whenever you're not using it. It even includes the ability to block advertisers and others from tracking your online activities.

    If spyware is your bugaboo, you'll like Kaspersky. Sophos Home Premium offers protection for the webcam and microphone that's more substantial than Kaspersky's. You get a notification any time an untrusted program attempts to access either; you can allow access or stop the program. There's also an option to whitelist a program, so you don't get a popup every time you use your off-brand video chat tool. Many antivirus tools on Windows pack in a ton of bonus features, packing in everything from tune-up utilities to VPNs. That behavior seems less common on the macOS side. Even so, some vendors don't have a standalone Mac antivirus, opting instead to offer a full security suite as the baseline level of protection, and a few others include suite-like bonus features in the basic antivirus.

    A typical personal firewall component blocks attacks coming in from the internet and also manages network permissions for programs installed on your Mac.

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