Do Mac OS X Users Need Anti-Virus Protection?

apple-back-to-the-mac-lionThe necessity of anti virus applications on Mac OS X has long been debated. Just the other day, we brought Sophos’ latest malware figures to you which showed that a small percentage of Macs were infected with various pieces of malicious software. Only 2 of these viruses were capable of executing on OS X, and the rest were designed for Windows. The most prominent virus infected just 4.62% of machines, and isn’t even capable of running on Mac OS X.

Many people argue that Macs are less likely to become infected because they’re more secure by nature. After all, there are very few viruses written for the Mac compared to the plethora of threats created for Windows systems. Is this because OS X is more secure due to its UNIX back-end though, or is Windows simply a more tempting target for virus creators due to its mammoth market share?

Market share of the Mac has been steadily on the rise since the introduction of Mac OS X, the mini revamp the operating system saw with the introduction of Leopard, and especially since the iPhone came to market in 2007. Despite this, it still stands at single figures worldwide, unable to challenge Microsoft’s binding monopoly in the market.

For Apple though, this could be considered a very large blessing in disguise. There is a very active community of Mac developers, one which will only grow with the abundance of iOS devices in the market, as these developers make the move over to Mac OS X. It seems that around 10% US market share is the sweet spot for Apple: lots of developers, but not enough worldwide users to interest many malware developers.

I personally don’t believe that the reason for low amounts of malware on the Mac is due to Mac OS being a more secure operating system. In many ways, OS X could possibly be more secure than Windows, but the fact of the matter is that people in lots of countries all over the world still use Windows in favour of other operating systems every day.

A lot of computer users in the world don’t even know that anything exists outside of Windows! Simply put, it’s a numbers game, and if you’re creating a virus, you want it to be present on as many machines as possible. It’s the same reason why there are very few Linux viruses out in the wild.

So what is the answer then? Do Mac OS X users need anti-virus software? At present I would say it isn’t a necessity. The chances of a Mac being infected are negligible when compared to a Windows PC, but with the market share of Mac OS X continuing to rise, it may be necessary sooner than you might think.

What are your thoughts on anti virus protection in OS X? Do you use anti virus software on your Mac? With many choices out there, such as Intego VirusBarrier X6, AVG Link Scanner and Sophos’ free offering, there’s no shortage of options if you wish to.

Whatever your thoughts , let us know in the comments as always. We’d love to hear what you think!


  1. says

    Simple answer is NO.
    I do disagree with you though – I think OSX is fundamentally more secure than Windows. BSD unix (underlying OSX) was developed with banking & the military in mind and security was high on the list.

  2. Pete says

    I think if the anti-virus companies would be honest with the world the need for Anti-Virus in general is more diminished in the past even on Windows.

    The biggest issue with Macs, Linux, and Windows is malware. With the Macs as you are finding out there are no viruses or viruses written for an incompatible version of Mac Operating system that has not been around since 2000. With 10 years on since that cut off date its a rude marketing spin anti-virus companies put on the need for their product that shows them up in the face of most Mac users as fear malingerers.

    If any security company or web site truly wants to protect users in todays world they would teach about all the web browser vulnerabilities and the *free* add-ons you can install to protect yourself.

    Such as with firefox:
    1. Install NoScript
    2. Install Ghostery
    3. Install BetterPrivacy
    4. Install HTTPSEverywhere
    5. Install Adblock Plus
    6. Configure the browser to remember no browser history

    Anyone who does not focus on the real threats today looks farcical to those in the security industry dealing with finding vulnerabilities and problems in systems and programs.

    Anti-virus on a Mac just is not required. User education and locking up the web browser is the best option with the most useful results than wasting space, cpu cycles and your life worried about viruses on Mac OS X.

  3. John doe says

    It is an old argument, the topic has been discussed many times. The author has no new point in the article. My opinion is like wearing helmet when driving a car.

  4. Rob says

    I tried Sophos a few times just would not work kept hanging during full scan. Read all the trouble shooting as I have bootcamp partition. Just wouldn’t work so I uninstalled it.
    Tried another free scanner, Clamxav, this worked perfectly – no issues reported. I have left this on my system as it has not effected the performance. I may remove this as still feel there is no need for such software. If you use common sense and dont submit your password without understanding why you should feel safe.

  5. Ted says

    The author clearly has a lack of understanding of operating systems. OSX is based on BSD UNIX, so it’s technically impossible to have a virus spread on Macs. The permissions model, the sandboxing, launchd, the way root is separated from admin, on and on.

    So it has nothing to do with marketshare, ALL to do with Apple using a true network OS. Windows is poorly crafted, it’s a kludge so it’s easy to harm it.

    Lastly, no, there never would be a need to run Anti-Virus software on Macs. The OS simply doesn’t allow that type of problem.

  6. says

    So it has nothing to do with marketshare, ALL to do with Apple using a true network OS. Windows is poorly crafted, it’s a kludge so it’s easy to harm it

  7. Johnny says

    To all the IDIOTS saying that the OS is just secure by nature: “yeah, right… that’s why big comanies with unix os’es never get hacked, right..? ‘

    Don’t be stupid, all pieces of software including your precious OS X, BSD, and whatever crap you like, is developed by people,. and will always have flaws and vulnerabilites…

  8. says

    Regardless what they say about Macs and virus’ I am still worried. Do you guys think that Norton-Symantec is a good added protection for my Mac? I found a site that has some great deals, but I am not sure if they are the best or what exactly I need. I was wondering if anyone had advice :) Thanks!

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