Five Top Mac Antivirus Protection Products
Have you ever thought about why the people who write viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other malicious software do it? The answer is simple—for money. Trojans steal personal data to sell. Bot herders rent out their victims to spammers. Ransomware goes for the jugular; give us your money or your files are toast. More computers use Windows than macOS, but there’s no reason for these malware entrepreneurs to ignore the macOS market. There are even some types of attack—phishing in particular— that are completely OS-independent. Like it or not, in this dangerous world you need antivirus protection on your Macs—not just on your Windows boxes.
As with Windows antivirus tools, the most common price is just under per year for a single license. But Avira Free Antivirus for Mac and Sophos Home (for Mac) are totally free for personal use. At the high end, you pay per year for a three-license subscription to Intego Mac Internet Security X9.
MALWARE PROTECTION LAB CERTIFICATIONS
When you go to select a new washer, refrigerator, or other appliance, chances are good you research it first. User reviews can be helpful, as long as you discard the very best and very worst of them. But actual test results performed by an independent lab give you more reliable information. Two large labs include macOS antivirus products in their testing, and every one of the products in this roundup received certification from at least one of them.
The researchers at AV-Test Institute report on four different tests whose results feed into product certification. Naturally, the first test involves detecting and eliminating macOS malware. Of the products in this roundup, scores range from 98.4 percent to 100 percent. Another test challenges the antivirus tools with lower-risk PUAs, or potentially unwanted applications. Most achieved the top score, over 99 percent, though a couple rated only over 95 percent. Most also earned the top score in a test using Windows malware (this test didn’t affect certification).
In the macOS malware test by AV-Comparatives, every tested product scored a perfect 100 percent. This lab, too, included a test using malware aimed at Windows. Yes, these samples can’t affect a computer running macOS, but they could conceivably escape to Windows machines on the network. Scores in the Windows malware test ranged from 28 percent to 100 percent, which is quite a range. Here, too, every tested product received certification.
|Lab Results||AV- Comparatives||AV-Test Institute|
Results in these tests have a much smaller point spread than in tests of Windows antivirus utilities. It’s good that every product received at least one certification for Mac protection, and even better that some received two certifications.
HANDS-ON PHISHING PROTECTION TESTING
When I test malware protection on Windows, I use live malware inside an isolated virtual machine. I’ve coded a number of analysis tools over the years to help with this kind of testing. Little of that testing regimen carries over to the Mac.
Phishing, however, isn’t platform-specific, as mentioned earlier, and neither is my antiphishing test. Phishing websites imitate secure sites—everything from banks and finance sites to gaming and dating sites. When you enter your credentials at the fake login page, you’ve given the phisher access to your account. And it doesn’t matter if you are browsing on a PC, a Mac, or an internet-connected refrigerator.
Phishing, however, isn’t platform- specific, as mentioned earlier, and neither is my antiphishing test.
The wily malefactors who create phishing sites are in the business of deception, and they constantly change and update their techniques, hoping to evade detection. If one fraudulent site gets blacklisted or shut down by the authorities, they simply pop up with a new one. That being the case, I try to use the very newest phishing URLs for testing, scraping them from phishing-focused websites.
|Antiphishing Accuracy Test||Difference from:|
|Norton A||Internet Explorer A||Firefox A||Chrome A|
|Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac||+5%||+25%||+ 51%||+ 35%|
|Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac||-1%||+26%||+25%||+ 19%|
|Sophos Home (for Mac)||-3%||+s%||+26%||+ 17%|
|Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac||-7%||+ 29%||+37%||+20%|
|Symantec Norton Security Deluxe (for Mac)||-14%||+ 16%||+22%||+ 12%|
|ESET Cyber Security (for Mac)||-25%||+ 14%||+ 15%||+ 10%|
|Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus (for Mac)||-39%||+ 11%||+ 1%||-1%|
|Avira Free Antivirus for Mac||-47%||-16%||-11%||-32%|
|Intego Mac Internet Security X9||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|McAfee Internet Security (for Mac)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
I launch each URL simultaneously in five browsers. One is Safari on the Mac, protected by the Mac antivirus that’s under test, and another is a browser protected by Norton on Windows. The other three use the protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Discarding any that don’t fit the phishing profile and any that don’t load correctly in all five browsers, I report the product’s success as the difference between its detection rate and that of the other four test systems.
Very few products, Windows or macOS, can beat Norton in this test. Of the products in this roundup, only Bitdefender did better, although Kaspersky did come close.
The scourge of ransomware is on the rise. While ransomware attacks are more common on Windows devices, Macs have suffered as well. Of course, any antivirus utility should handle ransomware just as it handles spyware, Trojans, viruses, and other malware types. But since the consequences of missing a ransomware attack are so great, some security products add components with the sole purpose of preventing ransomware attacks.
I’ve observed a wide variety of ransomware protection techniques on Windows. These include blocking unauthorized access to user documents, detecting ransomware based on its activity, and recovering encrypted files from backup. Of the products listed here, only Bitdefender offers a ransomware-specific component. As with its Windows edition, the Safe Files feature prevents all unauthorized access to your documents. On a Mac, it also protects your Time Machine backups.
Any kind of malware problem is unpleasant, but spyware may be the most unnerving. Imagine some creeper secretly peeking at you through your Mac’s webcam! Other types of spying include logging keystrokes to capture your passwords, sending Trojans to steal your personal data, and watching your online activities to build a profile. As with ransomware protection, I’ve observed more features specifically devoted to spyware protection on Windows-based security products than on the Mac, but a few products in this collection do pay special attention to spyware.
Under Windows, Kaspersky’s Safe Money feature opens sensitive sites in a secure browser that’s hardened against outside interference. The Safe Money feature on the Mac doesn’t do that, but it does check URLs to make sure you’re on a legitimate secure site. Kaspersky offers an onscreen keyboard, so you can enter passwords with no chance of capture by a keylogger. Its webcam protection isn’t as configurable as it is on Windows, but you can use it to disable your Mac’s webcam whenever you’re not using it. It even includes the ability to block advertisers and others from tracking your online activities. If spyware is your bugaboo, you’ll like Kaspersky.
Many antivirus tools on Windows pack in a ton of bonus features. Those seem less common on the macOS side. Even so, some vendors don’t have a standalone Mac antivirus, opting instead to offer a full security suite as the baseline level of protection, and a few others include suite-like bonus features in the basic antivirus.
A typical personal firewall component blocks attacks coming in from the internet and also manages network permissions for programs installed on your Mac. Norton includes a firewall component, and Kaspersky’s Network Protection comes close.
Parental control is another common suite component. With Sophos, a content filter can block access to websites matching unwanted categories. Kaspersky goes beyond that, with content filtering, internet time scheduling, private data protection, and even social media contact control.
PROTECT YOUR MAC
All of the products covered in this roundup earned certification from at least one independent testing lab; some managed two certifications. There really are no bad choices as far as basic antivirus protection goes. Even so, a couple of products stood out. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac not only achieved certification from both labs, it also earned the maximum score in every test. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac also earned high scores. It offers a full suite of Mac security tools, at the same price competitors charge for basic antivirus protection. These two are our Editors’ Choice winners for Mac antivirus protection. Once you’ve done picked a product, you should also consider installing a Mac VPN. While antivirus products protect you, your devices, and your data locally, a VPN extends that protection to your online activities, protecting both your security and your privacy.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
PROS: Protects files and backups from ransomware. Top ratings from two independent testing labs. Excellent score in our antiphishing test. No-hassle Autopilot mode. TrafficLight browser extension marks dangerous links in search results.
CONS: TrafficLight currently doesn’t work under the specific Safari/Google combination. .
BOTTOM LINE: Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac gets top marks from the independent labs and in our own hands- on testing. With its handy Autopilot mode, you can set it, forget it, and have confidence that your Apple computer is protected against malware.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac
PROS: Excellent scores from two independent testing labs. Excellent score in our antiphishing test. Full parental control system. Network protection. Privacy protection. Useful bonus tools.
CONS: Poor score in our Windows malware detection test. Parental content filter foiled by secure anonymizing proxy.
BOTTOM LINE: Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac excels in independent lab tests, and it goes far beyond mere antivirus, offering protection against network attacks, parental control, privacy protection, and many other useful features.
Sophos Home (for Mac)
PROS: Certified by two independent labs. Detected all Windows malware in hands-on test. Very good phishing protection. Remote management. Simple parental control. Free.
CONS: Content filter foiled by secure anonymizing proxy.
BOTTOM LINE: Sophos Home keeps configuration to a minimum and scores well in independent lab tests and our own hands-on tests. It’s excellent at protecting your Macs from malware, for free.
Symantec Norton Security Deluxe (for Mac)
PROS: Certified by one independent testing lab. Fast scan. Firewall blocks exploit attacks.
CONS: Expensive. So-so scores against phishing sites and Windows malware. Firewall’s application control generates tons of pop-ups.
BOTTOM LINE: Symantec’s Norton Security Deluxe delivers excellent Mac antivirus protection with a powerful firewall, and you can use your licenses to protect your Android, iOS, and Windows devices, too.
Avira Free Antivirus for Mac
PROS: Certified by AV-Comparatives, with top scores. Full scan ran quickly in our testing. Cleaned most Windows malware in hands-on tests. Free.
CONS: Protection against malicious and fraudulent URLs requires separate download. Poor score in antiphishing test.
BOTTOM LINE: Avira Free Antivirus for Mac costs nothing, and one lab certifies its macOS protection. But it’s not the best free Mac antivirus we’ve tested.
1 USER 3 DEVICES 1 YEAR – Avira ANTIVIRUS PRO