Mac users are lucky enough to miss out on some of the heartbreak that's part of the Windows experience. They will never, for example, have to suffer the confusion of Windows 8 or the madness of Windows RT. But many also don't experience the joy of installing antivirus software perhaps because they think they're already safe. Johnny Ive may have crafted an iPhone that's "beautifully, unapologetically plastic," but no one has made a computer that can't be attacked.
It's true that there are fewer threats out there for Macs, and that OS X includes many built-in protections. That doesn't mean that an attacker couldn't, for example, hijack your computer. Or that you couldn't pick up a piece of Windows malware in a stray USB drive, and end up becoming an infection vector for your friends. Or that you couldn't encounter a phishing site that dupes you into giving away your personal information. Developers make their operating systems strong, but antivirus is your last layer of protection.
More Than Mac Protection
While the list of viruses and other malware targeted at OS X is short, Windows and even Linux malware pose a threat to your Mac, too. These nefarious programs may not always be able to run on your Mac, but they aren't doing you any good by taking up space, either. Also, advanced malware can sometimes use your Mac as an infection vector for Windows or Linux computers, hitching a ride in an email or on a USB drive.
To combat these sneaky malicious programs, some Mac antivirus apps scan for Windows and Linux malware to keep your computer tidy, and your friends safe. Best of all, two independent labs, AV-Test Institute and AV-Comparatives, have confirmed that Mac antivirus actually works.
But why stop with just your Mac? Some of the antivirus apps we've tested and reviewed here will automatically scan attached storage devices for unwanted travelers. Even attached iOS devices will be checked to ensure nothing untoward is hiding amongst your many apps.
Firewall and Browser
Malware on your Mac is one thing, but the Web poses many more threats. You could get hit by browser-based attacks or a phishing site that tricks you into handing over your personal information. You need extra protection when you're online.
Many Mac antivirus apps will keep your Web activity covered, either by scanning your Web traffic or with a URL advisor, which rates URLs in search engine results, letting you know which are safe to click.
Firewalls go further than typical protection by controlling the flow of data to and from your computer. Firewalls are a rare feature among Mac antivirus products, perhaps because OS X comes with firewall features baked in.
If you have kids, you're probably concerned about what they're getting up to online. Several Mac security apps include filters and the ability to limit your children's time online. Unfortunately for parents, these features are rare and never show up in free products.
Even fewer apps include social networking tests that scan Facebook and its ilk for settings that might be exposing too much of your personal information. This is a good feature for both kids and parents alike.
Mac users simply cannot be complacent and leave their machines unprotected. Even if they never encounter malware, they would certainly benefit from social media protections and keeping their machines from being used to attack other computers. And with numerous free options, there's simply no excuse; get antivirus protection for your mac today.
FEATURED IN THIS ROUNDUP
avast! Free Antivirus for Mac
A big name in free antivirus protection, Avast stands on guard against Mac and Windows threats on your Apple machine. A new Streaming Updates system means you'll always have the latest protection, and the WebRep plugin keeps you safe while browsing the Web. Read the full review ››
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
$39.95 at BitDefenderBitdefender will scan not only your Mac, but also all attached devices. It uses both signature and heuristic detection, giving it an edge against novel threats—even Windows malware. Its TrafficLight system will even keep you safe while you browse the Web. Read the full review ››
ClamXav (for Mac)
ClamXav is the friendly, graphical wrapper for the powerful ClamAV detection engine. Of course, you can build your own virus detection engine and use it in ClamXav instead. The less ambitious among us can enjoy robust antivirus protection for free. Read the full review ››
ESET Cyber Security (for Mac)
$39.99 - $149.99
$33.99 at ESET North AmericaESET brings just about every security tool you could desire to OS X, but you'll have to shell out for the pricier Pro version to get everything. If you do, you'll get parental controls, educational modules, firewall protection, Web browsing protection, and social media safety scans in addition to OS X antivirus protection. Read the full review ››
F-Secure Anti-Virus for Mac
$39.99 - $66.99
With numerous pricing tiers, you'll be able to find the level of protection that make sense for your household. Once installed, F-Secure stays on guard against Mac malware and includes firewall protection. Read the full review ››
Intego Mac Internet Security X8
$39.99 - $159.99
$39.99 at AmazonThe venerable VirusBarrier has been bundled with other handy OS X tools to create Intego's latest product. With it, you'll have protection against Mac, Windows, and Linux threats. It'll even scan your attached iOS devices—that's in addition to parental controls and firewall protection. Read the full review ››
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac
$21.27 at AmazonUsing its cloud-based tools, Kaspersky quickly scans your Mac for OS X, Windows, and even Linux threats. It also has tools to keep you safe while browsing the Web, and parental controls. It even has an on-screen keyboard for entering sensitive information. Kaspersky has several license tiers, so find the one that works for you. Read the full review ››
McAfee Internet Security 2014 for Mac
While on the higher end in terms of pricing, McAfee offers a lot: protection against Mac threats, safe Web browsing, and firewall protection. The extra cost is offset by the sheer number of features available. Read the full review ››
Panda Antivirus for Mac
Panda's slick app protects your Mac against Apple and Windows malware, and will even scan attached iOS devices to make sure they're clean. That's a fairly rare feature among Mac antivirus apps. Read the full review ››
Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac
Sophos got great scores from independent testing labs, and it will keep your Mac safe from Apple and Windows threats. It also keeps you safe while you browse the Web. All that comes at a price, right? Actually, it doesn't. Sophos for Mac is totally free. Read the full review ››
Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac
Trend Micro keeps a constant lookout for OS X threats on your Mac. The app also includes parental controls, and can scan your social networking profiles for settings that could potentially leak your personal data. Read the full review ››