Viruses For Mac Computers

A phishing scam has targeted Mac users by redirecting them from legitimate websites to fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus. The user is then offered Mac Defender 'anti-virus' software to solve the issue.
This “anti-virus” software is malware (i.e. malicious software). Its ultimate goal is to get the user's credit card information which may be used for fraudulent purposes.
The most common names for this malware are MacDefender, MacProtector and MacSecurity.

Macro viruses are capable of creating new files, corrupting data, moving text, sending files, formatting hard drives, and inserting pictures, among other things. One of their more popular uses is to deliver destructive viruses and malware. Ransomware on Macs. Ransomware is finally here for the Mac. KeRanger was one of the first significant ransomware outbreaks for Macs.

Apple released a free software update (Security Update 2011-003) that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender malware and its known variants.
The Resolution section below also provides step-by-step instructions on how to avoid or manually remove this malware.

While it’s unlikely that your Mac will run any malware, there is possibly a more pernicious issue: You Mac could become the Typhoid Mary of Windows viruses, which is to say, you could be. Protect your Mac from malware. MacOS has many features that help protect your Mac and your personal information from malicious software, or malware.One common way malware is distributed is by embedding it in a harmless-looking app. Apple computers can get viruses and malware just like PCs can. While iMacs, MacBooks, Mac Minis, and iPhones may not be as frequent targets as Windows computers, all have their fair share of threats. Adware, spyware, ransomware, and hardware and software vulnerabilities are some of the problems now affecting Macs, and not just PCs.


How to avoid installing this malware

If any notifications about viruses or security software appear, quit Safari or any other browser that you are using. If a normal attempt at quitting the browser doesn’t work, then Force Quit the browser.

In some cases, your browser may automatically download and launch the installer for this malicious software. If this happens, cancel the installation process; do not enter your administrator password. Delete the installer immediately using the steps below.

  1. Go into the Downloads folder, or your preferred download location.
  2. Drag the installer to the Trash.
  3. Empty the Trash.

How to remove this malware

If the malware has been installed, we recommend the following actions:

  • Do not provide your credit card information under any circumstances.
  • Use the Removal Steps below.

Removal steps

  1. Move or close the Scan Window.
  2. Go to the Utilities folder in the Applications folder and launch Activity Monitor.
  3. Choose All Processes from the pop up menu in the upper right corner of the window.
  4. Under the Process Name column, look for the name of the app and click to select it; common app names include: MacDefender, MacSecurity or MacProtector.
  5. Click the Quit Process button in the upper left corner of the window and select Quit.
  6. Quit Activity Monitor application.
  7. Open the Applications folder.
  8. Locate the app ex. MacDefender, MacSecurity, MacProtector or other name.
  9. Drag to Trash, and empty Trash.

Malware also installs a login item in your account in System Preferences. Removal of the login item is not necessary, but you can remove it by following the steps below.

  • Open System Preferences, select Accounts, then Login Items
  • Select the name of the app you removed in the steps above ex. MacDefender, MacSecurity, MacProtector
  • Click the minus button

Use the steps in the “How to avoid installing this malware” section above to remove the installer from the download location.

Note: Apple provides security updates for the Mac exclusively through Software Update and the Apple Support Downloads site. User should exercise caution any time they are asked to enter sensitive personal information online.

In the Spring of 2000, the three words 'I love you' were heard by a lot more Windows users than Mac users. Were Mac users less lucky in love? Not necessarily, but a major virus attack occurred on May 5 of that year -- a virus spread using e-mail, with the alluring subject line, 'I love you.' Yet another PC-based virus.

While Windows users suffered the attack, Mac users watched on the sidelines, probably laughing to themselves and to anyone else who'd listen, thinking they were safe from infection. But are Macs really immune to digital attack, or are other factors at play?



Since launching its first Mac in January 1984, Apple has built a loyal following around simplicity of design and ease of use. Talk to most people who use a Mac, and they'll swear they're impervious to the attacks Windows users are used to. It just wouldn't happen to them. It couldn't. Could it?

Biological viruses are those unwholesome, parasitic creatures that make us miserable when we catch the flu or a cold. Computer viruses are just a digital version. Surely an operating system like the Mac's could never get a virus, right? I mean, look at the design of the screen. And that beautiful case. So clean. So simple. So pure. So … unviruslike.

And it's completely true that Macs aren't affected by PC viruses. Unfortunately that clean, stylish design does not protect Macs from Mac viruses. That smooth facade offers no more protection to a computer being attacked by a Mac virus than a pretty paint job does to protect a car in a head-on collision. So why don't Macs get infected more often? There must be something else going on.

To get to the bottom of this, let's first take a look at what exactly a virus is, how they work, and how their lifecycles could take advantage of your Mac.



In the 1980s, authors of the first computer virus, Brain, designed it to destroy only illegal copies of their software. Unfortunately, Brain took on a life of its own and actually started to reproduce itself. Things moved more slowly then, though -- you had to install a new diskette into the computer to get it to reproduce [source: Goodwins].

Viruses For Mac Os X

It didn't take long for more malicious hackers (often called crackers) to see the potential in viruses. Using the Internet to spread, a well-crafted virus can infect millions of computers amazingly quickly and do a lot of damage. The I Love You virus mentioned earlier infected more than 50 million computers and billions of dollars were spent fixing the problems it caused. And that was just one virus.



A virus does this kind of damage basically by inserting itself into the actual code of a program. Whenever the infected program is run, the virus reproduces and tries to infect other computers. To do this, it needs permission from the operating system as well as plenty of other computers running the same software. Under the right circumstances, a virus can infect any computer.

So if viruses are so clever and can infect anything, why haven't they infected more Macs?



Are Macs really better than PCs at beating viruses?

No computer system is immune to viruses (at least not yet). After all, viruses are just programs and all computers were designed to run programs. But Macs have had several factors in their favor in the fight to stay healthy?

Some suggest that Macs keep such a stellar reputation due to market share [source: Poremba]. Who'd want to write a virus for 100 computers when you could reach 1 million? The disparity isn't that big between the number of Macs and PCs, but you get the point. Not everyone agrees with the market share theory, though, claiming that Macs really do offer fewer opportunities for malicious code to spread [source: Porten]. The bottom line: Macs are not invulnerable and can get infected.



Another myth revolves around the UNIX foundation of Mac OSX (Mac operating system ten). Architecturally, UNIX is built with a more robust permission structure that prevents unauthorized execution of software. While Microsoft Windows will try to run a program any way it can, even if a virus is redirecting things, UNIX will stop in its tracks when it detects an unauthorized redirection and limit any damage [source: Perrin]. This is great, but it doesn't make your computer immune. It's similar to how exercising and eating right will help you stay healthier, but if a strong enough flu bug comes around you're still in for some misery. To infect a Mac, the viruses just need to be written well enough to get around the architecture. Not easy, but completely do-able [source: Rooney].

Even Apple devotees are beginning to realize that Macs are not only vulnerable, but increasingly likely to be targeted by crackers. Trying to capitalize on this vague awareness, in 2011, someone released a Trojan called Mac Defender, a fake program that tried to pass itself off as anti-virus software. Once it gets onto your computer, it throws an annoying array of pop-up ads at you until you buy the fake software. It's not likely to fool many people, but it's still annoying and a sign of more to come.

Scan My Mac For Viruses

Just because Macs are vulnerable doesn't mean all hope is lost. Let's look at some effective ways to keep your Mac and your data secure.


Even though Macs aren't as secure as you may have thought, there are plenty of ways you can protect your computer. In this battle, your first line of defense is yourself. Most security lapses can be prevented if you're conscientious about your surfing and what files you allow onto your computer.

For example, most malwares arrive in the form of Trojan horses, which come attached to e-mails or files you download from the Internet. This is a reference to the Greek epic 'The Aenid,' where the Greeks gave the Trojans a large wooden horse as a gift to honor the supposed Trojan victory over the Greeks. Greek soldiers poured out of the horse during the night to let the Greek army into Troy, taking the city by storm. Similarly, Trojan horse malwares are contained within seemingly benign files, like a note from a long-lost friend (who is fake) or a picture of a celebrity. Note that Trojan horse malwares are things you let in through negligence or poor judgment. In other words, be careful about what you click on in an e-mail, or what files you open if you're not sure about the source.



Look out for risky sites on the Web, too. Ever look at the status bar at the bottom of your browser? It'll usually show you the URL of the Web site you'll go to if you follow the link you're hovering over. If the link domain ends in .cc or .co, be careful. Viruses and other malware often originate from these domains [source: Keizer]. Regardless of the domain, use your common sense and take a look at a Web site's URL before clicking on any search results. Redirects based on popular search terms are a common trick too.

But don't worry, you're not alone in your fight against the bad guys. Legitimate Mac security software is out there. Intego, Kaspersky and Agile all offer highly rated security solutions you can buy to help you keep your Mac as clean and pure inside as it looks outside. Intego's VirusBarrier 6 offers basic protection for about $50, while Kaspersky's introductory software will run you about $60. Both offer comprehensive anti-malware protection, while Intego's version also includes a firewall. Agile is one of the highest rated password management tools available for $40.

Current Mac Viruses

If these are too pricey, Sophos and ClamXav are available for free. If you're new to anti-virus software (and most Mac users are) you might want to try a free option to learn more about what's available to you.


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Check My Mac For Viruses

  • Bott, Ed. 'Why Malware For Macs is On Its Way.' ZDNet. May 5, 2011. (Aug 5, 2011)
  • Goodwins, Rupert. 'Ten Computer Viruses That Changed the World.' ZDNet UK. Aug 3, 2011. (Aug 4, 2011)
  • Jade, Charles. 'Mac Market Share Surges in U.S.' Gigaom: the Apple Blog. Oct 14, 2010. (Aug 5, 2011)
  • Keizer, Gregg. 'Fake Security Software Takes Aim at Mac Users.' Computerworld. May 2, 2011. (Aug 2, 2011)
  • Kleinbard, David; Richtmeyer, Richard. 'U.S. Catches 'Love' Virus.' CNNMoney. May 5, 2000. (Aug 2, 2011)
  • Liebowitz, Matt. 'Apple, Expecting Attacks on Lion, Moves to Foil the Jackals.' Security News Daily. Feb 28, 2011. (Aug 2, 2011)
  • Perrin, Chad. 'Unix vs. Microsoft Windows: How System Designs Reflect Security Philosophy.' Tech Republic. Oct 20, 2010. (Aug 5, 2011)
  • Poremba, Sue M. 'Five Apple Security Myths -- and the Disturbing Truths.' Security News Daily. Mar 9, 2011. (Aug 3, 2011)
  • Porten, Jeff. 'Mac Virus Onslaught in 2011? Not So Fast.' Macworld. Dec 30, 2010. (Aug 11, 2011)
  • Rooney, Ben. 'Time for Mac Users To Think About Viruses.' Wall Street Journal. May 11, 2011. (Aug 5, 2011)