Malware, specifically with Mac users, is a hot topic that has sparked a lot of attention in the last year. (2015 Fortune article) We unfortunately continue to see a lot of adware and malware, and we get a lot of questions around it.
What is malware? Aren’t Macs immune to viruses?
Malware is malicious software that has become more and more of a concern for Mac users these days. Malware is usually installed by the user, but is usually disguised as something else, or is bundled with another software package so the user installs it unknowingly (see example).
Predators are becoming sneakier and more persistent to find ways into people’s computers. They are either out to inflict harm on the computer’s file system, harvest personal information, or in some cases, simply to be irritating enough to inhibit normal use of your computer.
If you have been affected by malware or adware, don’t be embarrassed, you are not alone! It is not just for the unsuspecting, it can happen to anyone who uses a computer and gets online. Ads are so prevalent that even savvy computer users may click on something unsavory. We focus on malware and adware because, luckily, Macs are still not as prone to viruses, which are different and more destructive.
Just a couple weeks ago, there was a Ransomware attack, the first successful one on the Mac operating system, which has been fixed if you upgrade the affected software. (Read PaloAlto Networks article here.) Mac users who torrent or use peer sharing software are at risk for these kinds of attacks because they open their computers to other users, and there are always bad apples out there looking for opportunities to attack systems.
Symptoms of Malware or Adware:
- Incessant pop-up ads or web pages every time you go online.
- Web browser home page has changed or has been “hijacked” by another search engine.
- The internet is very slow, even when your peers on the same wifi seem to be fine.
- Unfamiliar icons appear in your menu bar that you don’t remember installing.
How do I get rid of Malware?
There are tools you can download to remove the most common Malware automatically, but in some cases, the process is manual and tedious, and can even necessitate a complete system erase and re-build. Because there are so many different kinds of malware and adware, we must always be on the lookout for new kinds. A trusted tool we recommend that you can try at home is MalwareBytes.
Our MacSpa MD customers enjoy the convenience of regular scans and removal of malware and adware as it appears. Our tools are constantly being tested and updated as new developments arise. Prevention is key, but if something does show up, the next step is making sure it is completely removed from your system.
It is increasingly important as Mac users, to keep software up to date, to know what to look out for, what downloads are safe, and to be able to take action if you do become a victim of malware or other kinds of “gremlins” that can invade your system. Always be wary of ads that claim to “clean your Mac” or remove malware (with the exception of MalwareBytes above).