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how to get rid of malware on macComputer viruses hold a sweet spot between boring, everyday occurrences, dating back to the 70s, and dramatic, science fiction fueled monsters that will haunt us in our new information-driven world.
One may ask, “Do you need antivirus to protect your Mac?” The reality is, all computers, even Macs, are vulnerable to malware (short for malicious software). While Apple takes a lot of security precautions, how secure your Mac is depends on your knowledge of how to check for viruses and how to remove them.
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Whether you want to know how to remove virus from MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac, learning to keep your information safe first is necessary and easy, with a few tips from the professionals.
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How to scan your Mac for a virus
Why checking your Mac for viruses is important? If a computer virus was the only thing to watch out for, this world would be a simpler place. Malware, adware, spyware, malicious files, worms, trojans, phishing software, you name it, you should check for it. The old way of thinking was that because there are more PCs than Macs in the world, the “virus people” would focus on them instead of Macs. But, we’re not in the 2000s anymore. In fact, in 2018, Apple moved to the fourth position in global laptop shipments. This means, Macs are no longer shiny white boxes that are meant for fun and entertainment.
Not only do we run our businesses off Apple devices and different versions of macOS but we also store family photographs, send out sensitive info — and, thanks to cloud computing, each device is synchronized. Unfortunately, this means your Mac could be a far juicier target than the PC sitting in some corner cubicle.
Know what a Mac virus is
Most of us are familiar with recognizing what a virus looks like thanks to its atrocious design and alarming vocabulary. However, not all viruses take the shock-and-scare approach to getting on your Mac. The latest adware could look like an Adobe Flash Player installer, but is, of course, fake. Not only does it trick you into thinking it's something as normal as Flash, but the installed adware then pretends to be a virus scanner. It shows you bogus problems and encourages you to fix them by giving over sensitive information.
Other forms of viruses could look like Microsoft Office files (e.g. Excel sheets, Word documents), Adobe Photoshop add-ons, as well as music and movie files that you get from BitTorrent or other file sharing programs. But the most common file format that a virus takes is a .dmg file, because it was created by Apple itself to help install good software on your computer. Your task in securing your Mac is to look out for .dmg files showing up when you’re trying to install something. If you’re ever trying to download something you know is supposed to be an image, music, movie, or document, but you get a .dmg file instead — that is as red as a red flag gets in terms of viruses. Do yourself a favor and delete that file immediately.
Keep Mac virus sources in mind
When it comes to having your Mac infected by a virus, we probably expect the attack to come from a stranger. Truth be told, a lot of viruses come from our friends, family, and colleagues, who unfortunately became the primary victim and are now unintentionally passing their viruses to you.
A popular malware virus of 2017 was embedded into a Word document — a Mac Word file, not a PC one. In 2018, Apple discovered flaws in their Intel processor chips that could lead to two kinds of very ambitious strains of Mac viruses too. It’s wild to think that even iPads and iPhones can contract malware.
How to check for malware
In an ideal world, scanning for viruses and the other methods for malware removal should be automatic and happen nearly continuously. In reality, you can consider yourself reasonably safe if you scan your Mac close to once a week. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to make sure you are as protected as possible.
A good start to scan your Mac for viruses is to see whether you have applications installed that you don’t recognize:
- Go to the Applications folder via Go > Applications in Finder or using the shortcut Shift + Command + A.
- Scroll through the list and delete any unknown applications.
- Then empty the trash.
The second step you should do is check for browser hijackers and adware extensions:
- Go to Safari > Preferences. See what the Homepage URL is currently set to and correct if needed.
- Then proceed to the Extensions tab and uninstall any you don’t recognize, as they could spy on you, save your private data, and redirect you to their malicious websites.
How to run a Mac virus scanner and stop viruses from stealing your information
It’s a common misconception that viruses only happen to people who are gullible, ignorant, or technologically illiterate. The stigma is that hackers prey on people, when in reality, they prey on behavior.
Our basic assumption with Macs is that we expect Apple and our applications to have done all the security work for us. In truth, every user has to adjust their own behavior when using their Mac.
Do you use public WiFi? Consider getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt the connection between your laptop and the external network. Shimo is a great VPN manager app that will help you here. While using it, raw information (whether sensitive or not) can’t be fed to any malicious programs lurking on your Mac, and hackers on the same network won’t be able to decode anything you’re working on.
Speaking of encryption, Macs using OS X Lion or later come with the option to encrypt their hard drives using FileVault 2. Although encryption won’t prevent viruses from entering your computer (for that, you’ll need a scanner), it would still be very helpful in stopping viruses from stealing your information. To turn on FileVault:
- Go to System Preferences
- Select Security & Privacy
- Navigate to the FileVault tab
- Choose Turn On FileVault
Keep your Mac secure and virus-free
Trademark signs of something being wrong with your Mac: slow processing memory, a bloated disk space, intense CPU usage, and network speed lag. Unfortunately, viruses don’t live in an easy-to-find location like your computer’s desktop. They can be embedded within an application, most notably, your favorite web browser, where it’s easier for them to view what you’re viewing and track what you’re typing. If you kept on seeing weird websites taking over your search bar, it's a sign that your browser has been hijacked. Other applications can get corrupted or infected too, especially if they have particularly weak security systems. Another example could be an email app you use or an open-source application that is behind on their patch upgrades. Check out how to get rid of malware on mac.
If you think one of your applications is infected, a typical knee-jerk reaction would be to delete the whole thing and redownload it. Often, this will do the trick, but there are simpler solutions available. Clearing the application's cache should always be your first step, and, if there are optional hidden files, consider removing them as well.
Scan your Mac for viruses with CMM X
Run an instant malware scan to identify and remove suspicious files from your Mac. There’s no tool that can do it better than CleanMyMac X.
To remove any application’s cache and get rid of Mac malware from the Library folder:
- Use the shortcut Shift + Command + G to Go to Folder
- Type ~/Library/Caches and choose Go
- Delete any particular files inside the folder
If you are unsure about deleting cache files manually, use an app like CleanMyMac X:
- Launch CleanMyMac
- Go to System Junk and click Scan
- When the scan is complete, choose Review Details
- Select User Cache Files and pick the caches you’d like to delete
- Click Clean
In addition, CleanMyMac now features a Malware Removal function, using which should become your weekly habit.
- In CleanMyMac, choose the Malware Removal tab
- Click Scan
- Follow the instructions given. Hopefully it should say your Mac is clean most of the time.
Unfortunately, not all viruses are easy-to-understand files that just sit on your computer. Sometimes they are root certificates that intercept your passwords and messages, and send a copy to hackers. To effectively secure yourself from this, only download apps with valid developer certificates. Which ones are those? It’s hard to know but Apple built a feature that could help you here.
- Go to System Preferences
- Select Security & Privacy
- In the Allow apps downloaded from: select App Store and identified developers
You are well on your way to being protected from malware now. But, the truth is, simply avoiding viruses is not enough. You need to be proactive — it’s time to get a virus scanner.
Check viruses like a pro
If you want complete Mac security, there is no better tool than CleanMyMac X, which can effortlessly scan for all the latest viruses, malware, spyware, and more. Just launch the app on the regular basis and click the Smart Scan option to inspect your Mac for any suspicious activity, besides other suggested features for optimization and cleaning out old files.
Remove viruses from Mac completely
Using a tool like CleanMyMac makes getting rid of viruses, of all shapes and formats, very easy. After the scan, it tells you what it’s found and gives you the option to remove it completely right then and there. Additionally, it will give you all kinds of other great options on how to optimize your Mac’s performance.
As mentioned above, hackers who want to steal your information don’t target you specifically, they target your behavior. So, with this in mind, change your behavior when it comes to using your Mac in potentially unsafe ways. Recognize that viruses come and go, all the time, and across many different file formats. If you get a virus, you’re not ruined.
Arm your computer with encryption tools (like FileVault and a VPN), so that your information can’t be stolen. Practice a healthy dose of skepticism when downloading files. But, most importantly, get professional apps that bring you the most results, like CleanMyMac or Shimo — all of which are available on Setapp for your to try free. So get a scan now and see what it says.
Meantime, prepare for all the awesome things you can do with Setapp.Read on
Macs don’t get viruses, right? Wrong, sadly. Your Mac may be safer from malware than the average Windows PC, thanks to its Unix core and Apple’s default security settings in the OS, but it’s not immune. All it takes is one thoughtless click on a link in an email or on a website, and your Mac could be infected.
The good news is that performing a Mac virus scan is very easy and if it finds anything, getting rid of the virus is very straightforward, too.
How to check your Mac for a virus
There are a number of tell-tale signs that your Mac has a virus. If it’s not displaying any of those, there’s probably nothing to worry about. So, before you scan your Mac for a virus, here are a few things to check.
1. Is your Mac behaving erratically?
This could include applications crashing, web browsers loading pages you didn’t ask for, and unusually high traffic on your network.
2. Has it started running very slowly all of a sudden?
Some viruses run processes that hog CPU cycles and leave little capacity for the tasks you want to carry out.
3. Are you seeing adverts or pop-ups for things you would never normally see?
Adware viruses are designed specifically to show adverts in the hope that you’ll click on them.
4. Have you noticed software appear on your Mac that you didn’t deliberately install?
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Some viruses appear in the form of browser extensions, others run in the background, but some may appear as applications in your Applications folder. Before we'll explain how to scan Mac for malware, check these 5 tell-tale signs.
If any of the above are true, it’s possible that your Mac has a virus, but don’t panic, it may be relatively easy to remove.
How to run a malware scanner on Mac
So how to check for malware on Mac? There are several Mac virus scanners that allow you to scan your system. However, it’s very important that you don’t just google ‘free Mac antivirus software.’ Many sites that claim to offer free antivirus tools in fact host viruses themselves. So, you go to the site looking for a solution and end up making the problem worse. It’s important to use a reputable tool. We recommend using CleanMyMac X.
CleanMyMac X detects thousands of malware threats, including adware, spyware, worms, ransomware, cryptocurrency miners, and if it finds something suspicious, it offers immediate removal. Here’s how to scan your Mac for malware:
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- Download CleanMyMac X (free edition here) and launch the app.
- Click on the Malware Removal tab.
- Click Scan.
- Click Remove.
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Malware Monitor is another thing I love about CleanMyMac X. And this Mac malware scanner works in real-time. Whenever an adware attempts to enter some protected areas on your Mac, you’ll get instantly notified.
How to get rid of suspicious apps
If you find an application that you didn’t intend to install, you should get rid of it. But don’t just drag it from your Applications folder to the Trash, that won’t remove every trace of it from your Mac. Applications store files in a number of different places in your Mac’s Library folders. You could hunt them down and remove them manually, but it’s quicker and easier to use a dedicated uninstaller like CleanMyMac X. That way, you can be sure you will remove every trace of the application and no stray files will be left behind.
- Download CleanMyMac for free here.
- Launch it from your Applications folder.
- In the Utilities section, click on Uninstaller.
- Look through the list of applications until you see the one you want to get rid of.
- Check the box next to it.
- Press the Uninstall button.
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How to prevent your Mac from getting a virus
Scanning Mac for malware is one thing. But prevention is always better than cure. So, if you want to make sure that every virus scan returns a clean bill of health, here’s what to do.
- Never click a link in an email unless you’re 100% sure where the email has come from and where the link will take you. Reputable companies and banks won’t ask you to click a link to log into an account, for example.
- Never download anything unless you’re certain what it is. That includes movie files, software updates, games, and anything else you’re not absolutely certain about.
- Keep your Mac updated with the latest version of macOS. That doesn’t mean you have to be running the very latest OS, but if you’re running, say, Sierra, make sure you install the latest updates when they become available.
Scanning your Mac for threats is very easy. To check Mac for malware, you can download the free version of CleanMyMac X which is an Apple notarized app. With its help, you get rid of any applications you didn’t intend to download and scan your whole system for malware very quick and easy. Give it a go.