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I have a MacBook that I use for programming and graduate school work. Since I bought it, I've not given much thought to putting an anti virus on it. I bought it about 6 months ago and for some reason, doing so has never crossed my mind until this morning.

I scanned this site (using the search feature) to find what people might recommend. I had assumed that this would have been asked already. I've not found any post related to Anti and Mac.

But, I found this post and I started questioning whether I need it or not.

Do I need an Anti Virus on my MacBook? For my Window's machines, I run AVG Anti Virus free edition. Is there a free edition (of something) for a Mac OS X based computer?

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closed as not constructive by random Jul 28 '12 at 17:41

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@Troggy: I'm mainly wondering if I need it. If I was solely looking for free anti virus software, I would have Googled for that. But, that said, my search didn't find that post so I thank you for posting the link. –  Frank V Jul 28 '09 at 14:56
    
I didn't say it was a dup, it was just closely related. –  Troggy Jul 28 '09 at 15:09
    
Still, why not limiting the question to "do I need it" then? –  Arjan Jul 28 '09 at 15:48
    
I hadn't been able to find the post at the time I wrote this. And at this point, to take out that part would disrupt the flow... I don't think it is nessasary.... –  Frank V Jul 29 '09 at 14:16
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8 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Here are two free options.

Note that iAntiVirus does not scan for Windows viruses, while this makes the scan a lot faster just be aware that you could potentially pass on something to a Windows machine.

Also be advised that ClamAVX has slow scan speeds.

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ClamAVX is open source which I think is great, but who publishes the definition updates? –  Frank V Jul 28 '09 at 14:30
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They are taken from ClamAv (clamav.net). I believe the definitions are done by volunteers. –  James McMahon Jul 28 '09 at 14:33
    
I was going to add that iAntiVirus was lightweight, but today the background process started going nuts and using close to 50%, causing my Macbook to overheat. This would be fine on desktop, because all my running processes were light weight so they had plenty of CPU, but on a laptop this is murder on the battery/heat levels. –  James McMahon Jul 28 '09 at 19:59
    
I don't think ClamAVX checks the operations/files automatically. At least ClamAv for windows didn't. I might be wrong ;) –  Baha Jul 30 '11 at 8:27
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Here have some mac os antivirus .

http://antivirus.about.com/od/antivirussoftwarereviews/tp/aamacvir.htm

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Why? OpenBSD, to take one example, has no viruses. I'd think it is only worth installing antivirus if there's a realistic chance of getting infected. There's a real cost to running antivirus (money, plus processor time and I/O time). –  ChrisInEdmonton Jul 28 '09 at 15:01
    
I have to agree, anti-virus is not a good idea for any OS. Anti-virus is just one piece of a larger security risk-management solution. –  jweede Jul 28 '09 at 15:29
    
I have removed my statement because i don't want any controversy things . Might be i am wrong –  joe Jul 28 '09 at 15:47
    
Thank you, Krish! –  ChrisInEdmonton Jul 28 '09 at 17:15
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I'll say, as of right now and for a user like yourself, the answer is no. The number of people I know who have had their Macs adversely affected by a virus or malware is zero. Not saying that there never would be a problem in the future, but it seems unlikely at this point that it would be as important as it is in the Windows world. And, if you're somebody that's using superuser.com during the beta, I would imagine that you are the type of person who will hear about impending danger with Mac viruses before it's too late to start using anti-virus.

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I have been working with computers for over 20 years and never had my personal machines infected. doesn't mean it couldn't and doesn't mean it can't... Practice safe computing... use protection... –  Matthew Whited Jul 28 '09 at 19:13
    
how do you know your computer hasn't been infected? are you using an antivirus to check your machines? i just think that there is a good chance that any computer will get infected sooner or later. Maybe you don't have the ones that show themselves. ;) –  Baha Jul 30 '11 at 8:30
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When it comes to Mac antivirus, you tread a fine line between getting useful answers, and getting answers that inspire mouth-foaming zealotry.

Disclaimer: I am a mac user (I own three of them) and I used to administer several hundred Windows machines for a living.

The security guy in me says that no computer should be without some form of automated malware protection. You take that how you like, but if it is connected to the internet, then it requires some form of protection.

The more realistic guy in me says that no, you don't need a mac anti virus. There just aren't that many live examples of malware running around in the wild, and in just about every instance that I'm aware of - these pieces of malware will ask for administrative rights.

Most normal people get a bit suspicious when the admin prompt comes up for no reason. At least, that's what I teach people (If you see this and you didn't ask for it, cancel!).

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I don't think you need anti-virus on a mac, you do, however need to be very careful about security.

Anti-virus tends to cause more problems than it solves, but there are several things you can do to keep your machine safe(r).

  • Carefully check install files before you enter your password
    • Check the author/version/etc.
    • Make sure that it is the same software you intend to install.
  • Only enable network services you need.
    • if you are never going to share files with windows, don't enable windows file sharing.
    • if you don't need remote access, don't turn on ssh.
    • etc.

Because of the underlying system, if you are careful about installation and open ports, most of your problems go away. There will always be a chance, but anti-virus is just a different form of risk-minimization.

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People may say that a virus needs to spread itself. That may be true, but when using the term "virus" for threats that get downloaded/installed without the user knowing it, then for example vulnerabilities in PDF readers or Flash players may be a threat as well, even when one needs to go to some website to be exposed to it.

Such threats may already be blocked by a modern browser, which compares the website against a list of known bad sites. A scanner could block this when coming in through email as well. And even on a Mac and other Unix-like systems, where security requires an administrative account to do a serious lot of damage: "only" deleting the user data, or making such data public, would still be a huge problem for many.

I am not using any scanner on my Macs. But actually I wish that others would: if some day some zero day vulnerability is discovered, then a scanner that updates itself like every hour might be able to stop it from spreading until the vulnerability is actually fixed.

I don't feel responsible for scanning Windows files that my Macs may distribute for viruses.

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So, you don't want to run an anti-virus but you want everyone else to in order to ultimately protect you? :-) I'm sorry, but that is how that reads. –  Frank V Jul 29 '09 at 14:19
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I have Macs at work and at home, as well as PCs. I have not encountered many viruses that would run on a Mac, but there are some issues to worry about. My wife is a college professor, and she is often running into Word documents with macro viruses and other application-specific viruses that harm data files regardless of platform. And even if those won't run on your Mac, you would not want to pass along that malicious code.

There have been a few sightings of Mac malware, delivered through the familiar mechanisms of forced download from a website or shady browser extension. As more and more people use Macs and Linux machines, there will inevitably be some level of malicious software threatening those platforms.

On my PCs I use the Avast! anti-virus software, and I use the Mac version on my Macs. At this point it's mainly a prophylactic measure, but after encountering such dirty data files (mostly from Word) coming in from students, I can't imagine getting rid of the av scanner.

Avast! for Mac is available here.

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Your point with the MS Word files is well taken.... But, I use OpenOffice.org on all my computers. This leads me to wondering if OpenOffice is susceptible to those types of viruses? –  Frank V Jul 29 '09 at 14:25
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I would imagine that any application that allows macro scripting of some sort would have potential security issues. However, I have not heard of an OOo-targeted malicious script, so either OOo has taken care of its potential issues, or nobody has bothered to target it yet. –  shawnr Jul 30 '09 at 14:20
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Surfing without an antivirus is like not wearing a helmet when riding a bike : If you are careful then nothing happens, but a mistake could cause you big troubles.

The Internet is a dangerous place. There are hackers out there trying to take control of your computer, and they are much cleverer and more knowledgeable than you. The hackers are of course always ahead of the antivirus, at least for a while, but the antivirus does protect against known viruses.

The better antivirus products contain databases of known viruses. These databases are growing at the rate of thousands of new viruses per day! There are large and well-founded Mafia-type organizations behind these viruses. Do you know that bank-fraud brings in more money than heroine traffic? And do you know that virus-writing is not a crime in Russia?

OS X is less-targeted than Windows, for obvious reasons. But for the same reason OS X computers are often unprotected because of a false feeling of security. Because OS X viruses do exist.

Conclusion: You need an antivirus, I need an antivirus, we all need an antivirus. At least if we connect to the Internet.

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