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Checking Your Mac for Viruses and Malware – A Simple Guide

Mac computers (laptops and desktops) are Apple’s second-best-selling products after the iPhone. In 2022 alone, the company generated over $40 billion in sales from its Mac product lineup.

One of the strongest selling points is that MacOS is less vulnerable to viruses and malware than Windows, Linux, Android, and other operating systems.

However, like any internet-connected device, Macs aren’t completely immune to cyberthreats and attacks.

In this post, we’ll share a simple diagnostic guide to checking your Mac for viruses and malware. 

The Most Popular Malware Attacks Targeting Mac Users

1.   The Shlayer Trojan

In 2021, Apple discovered a serious security flaw in MacOS that enabled users to download and run unofficial or restricted apps.

Hackers created malicious software called Shlayer that exploits a logic error to bypass Apple’s main security mechanisms (Gatekeeper and File Quarantine) to generate ad revenue through fake clicks.

The only catch was that they’d have to convince you to download the malware hidden in different apps. Fortunately, Apple released a security patch in macOS 11.3 to fix the bug.

However, the global security incident raised concerns. According to MacUpdate, the Shlayer trojan has affected nearly 10% of all Mac devices worldwide.

2.   SysJoker

SysJoker is among the most dangerous cross-platform malware targeting macOS, Windows, and Links.

Since 2022, it has impacted millions of devices worldwide by downloading spyware for unauthorized surveillance, cyber espionage, and other crimes.

3.   Exploit HVNC, Atomic macOS Stealer (AMOS) & ShadowVault

2023 has witnessed a massive surge in cyberattacks targeting Mac products and macOS, with  the continuous influx of new and advanced malware, such as:

The good news is that Mac malware attacks account for just 6% of total cyber attacks.

Hence, these devices are safer than Windows, Linux, and Android.

The bad news is that trojans, backdoors, and rootkits are actively making Macs more vulnerable than ever before.

So, there might be a significant rise in attacks by the end of 2023 and beyond.

Signs Your Mac May Be Infected by Viruses or Malware

Before checking if your Mac’s security has been compromised, you must learn and understand the most common signs of a malware or virus infection:

How to Check Your Mac for Viruses and Malware – A Step-by-Step Guide

1.   Check for Unknown Applications

The first thing you should do is check your Mac for unknown applications. You can do this by opening Finder and checking the Applications folder. Delete any unknown or unwanted apps, and then empty your trash.

2.   Check Your Downloads Folder

Next, check your download folder for any app or file you don’t recognize. Make sure you don’t double-click on them. You might activate them without knowing it. Instead, click on their icon and then hit the space bar. You should then see the file or app name. Delete the ones you don’t recognize.

3.   Check for Suspicious Login Items

Malicious software, such as ransomware and spyware, starts working in stealth mode when you turn on and log into your Mac. To stop this from happening, follow these steps:

What to Do If a Virus Has Infected Your Mac

Below are some effective steps you can take to if cybercriminals have compromised your Mac:

1.   Switch Off Your Wi-Fi Immediately

If you suspect a malware infection, switch off your Wi-Fi immediately and go offline until you figure out a solution.

If you rely heavily on the internet, ensure you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic and mask your IP address.

Make sure you choose a server close to you. For instance, if you’re in the US, opt for an American VPN server.

2.   Avoid Logging into Your Accounts

Chances are, malicious criminals still monitor your activities through your Mac after infecting it. So, avoid logging into your social or banking accounts to safeguard your passwords.

Ideally, you should change your Mac’s login password by going to System Preferences> Users & Groups. Repeat the process for your iCloud and other essential accounts, preferably using another device.

3.   Perform a System Rollback

Apple provides one of the best backup solutions in the market. You can easily perform a system rollback and restore your Mac from a previous version without malware or viruses. However, this is usually a last resort.

How to Remove Malware from Mac

Below are the most effective ways to remove viruses from your Intel or M1 Mac.

1.   From the Safe Mode

Turning on your Mac in Safe mode stops malware from loading following the boot. Here’s how to do it properly:

2.   Identify Malware in Activity Monitor or Run a Scanner

Mac users can easily use the Activity Monitor to find and remove malware:

If you can’t find any suspicious apps or files, you should run a third-party anti-malware scanner to thoroughly scan your files and find the virus source.

The Bottom Line

Macs are like any other internet-connected device. They might not be as vulnerable to threats as Windows or other computers.

Nonetheless, you must do your due diligence and learn to check your Mac for viruses and malware.

If you find an infection, you can take the steps above to eliminate the threat seamlessly. The more vigilant you are about cybersecurity, the less likely you will become a cybercrime victim.

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