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How to Identify and Remove Mac Malware

How to Identify and Remove Mac Malware in 2020

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Taking into account the ever-evolving nature of the present-day threat landscape, it is crucial for users to implement a more practical approach to cybersecurity, and look for ways to secure their devices against an arsenal of threats and vulnerabilities

Malware- which is an amalgamation of the words “malicious software” refers to the various types of programs written by cybercriminals, with the purpose of gaining access to a user’s computer. 

In most cases of malware infections, the user is unaware of the plight that they are in, which provides a golden opportunity for cybercriminals to generate revenue, either by selling personal data on the dark web or by encrypting data files and demanding a ransom payment for the victim to regain entry into their files. 

For the most part, malware serves as an umbrella term, under which spyware, adware, ransomware, and trojans can be found. 

For Mac owners, determining whether or not their PC has been infected by malware is even more tricky than usual. Typically, due to a lack of understanding and the misplaced belief that Apple devices don’t get viruses or malware, most people tend to confuse Mac malware with viruses. 

Quite on the contrary, Mac malware, similar to any other malware, is formulated to wreak as much havoc on a computer, server, or computer network as possible, and includes everything from viruses, worms to sophisticated forms of spyware, adware, and ransomware. Needless to say, Mac malware is capable of much more destruction than a simple virus. 

In an attempt to aid our Macbook-owning readers, we’ve partnered with Mac security expert Will Ellis, head of research at VPN review site Privacy Australia, to compile this guide that delves deep into everything that you need to know about identifying and removing malware from your Mac computers. 

Before we can get into detailing tell-tale signs that your Mac is infected with malware, we’d like to examine the belief that Macs can’t be infected with malware or viruses. 

Can Macs Be Infected With Viruses/Malware? 

Although we’ve already skimmed over this, the misheard belief that Macs can’t be infected with either viruses or malware is primarily rooted in the fact that iOS-based devices, such as the iPhone or iPad can’t be infected with malware. 

In recent years, however, there have been several notable reports of malware and virus infecting Mac computers, which has put Mac owners at high risk for several vulnerabilities. 

Having said that, however, as the number of viruses and malware infecting Mac computers increase, both in number and sophistication, unlike Microsoft Windows, there hasn’t been a Mac malware epidemic. Furthermore, with the launch of OS X, which is simply known as macOS, only a small fraction of Macs have been infected with malware in the world. 

A reason for malware inflicting damage on a tiny fraction of all the Mac computers out there is the stringent security built right into the macOS. Moreover, the sharing features that Macs are equipped with make it extremely difficult for the virus or malware to propagate to other Mac computers. 

When compared to the malware epidemic faced by Windows users, Mac users might be considering themselves lucky. Although that is true to a certain extent, over the course of recent years, as cybercriminals have grown increasingly sophisticated in their ways, Mac users have become a prime target for malware attacks

Accounting for the ever-evolving and sophisticated nature of the threat landscape, we’d recommend that taking precautions and staying safe, is much better than being sorry in the end. 

How Can You Check For Malware On Your Mac Computer? 

By its very nature, malware is designed to sneak undetected under the user’s eyes, and silently cause as much damage to the user as possible. In most instances, malware tends to take the form of an application, that hides its more sinister intentions under the guise of the seemingly practical and useless. 

Fortunately, however, while remaining a vigilant user of technology, and staying on the look-out for some signs, Mac users can determine whether or not their computers have been infected with malware. If your Mac computer exhibits any of the phenomena mentioned below, chances are that it has been the victim of a malware attack. 

  • Your Mac is suddenly exhibiting a slowed-down performance.

  • There’s an unknown application’s icon on your desktop that you don’t remember downloading.

  • There’s an unusually high amount of advertisements popping on your screen, particularly when you’re browsing the internet.

  • Your default browser has been changed to an unexpected browser.

  • While browsing the internet, you keep getting redirected to fake pages, while you wait for your requested page to load.

  • You keep receiving warning pop-ups, which keep resulting in unknown applications being downloaded automatically.

  • While using your Mac, you find that your macOS keeps rebooting, or restarting for no particular reason. Moreover, you may also find that some applications keep shutting down of their own accord.

How Can You Remove Malware From Your Mac Computer? 

Up till this point, we’ve gone through some of the key signs that users need to look out for if they suspect that their Mac PCs have been infected with malware. As a Mac user, the quicker you come to terms with the realization that your computer has been the victim of a malware attack, the better. Acting in a timely manner can be the key to ensuring that you’re able to eradicate all traces of malware from your Mac computer! 

Remove Malware From Your Login Items

When it comes to Mac malware, most malware (and adware) will typically try to sneak its way into the device’s startup process, which is why it is essential that you take steps to eliminate any chance of the malware spreading, right from the very beginning. Some steps you can take to eradicate all traces of malware from the startup process include the following: 

  1. From the Apple menu, go to the “Systems Preferences” tab. 

  2. Click on the Users & Groups pane, and ensure that your username is highlighted. 

  3. After ensuring that you’re navigating the Users & Groups pane from your account, open the “Login Items” tab. 

  4. Using the “__” option, disable all suspicious applications. 

  5. Once you’ve double-checked and made sure that all suspicious apps have been disabled, restart your Mac for all the changes to take place. 

In most cases, however, users fail to determine the type of malware attack that their Mac computer has been a victim of. Since malware such as ransomware, adware, scareware, and ransomware is typically implanted in web browsers, and applications, we suggest that you take the following steps to eradicate its existence from your Mac. 

  1. Press Command + Q to immediately quit the web browser that you were using. 

  2. By using the Finder, open the “Downloads” tab. 

  3. Scrutinize all the installation files, and then proceed to move suspicious files into trash. 

  4. Open Finder > Application > Utilities > Activity Monitor. 

  5. Once you’ve opened the Activity Monitor tab, search the name of any suspicious file or program, and end said app. 

  6. Click on the Applications folder, and locate the problematic applications file. 

  7. Once you’ve located the files of the suspicious apps and programs, move them to the trash bin and empty the bin immediately. 

Uninstall malicious adware extensions and block pop-up ads. 

Since one of the biggest tell-tale signs that point towards a Mac being infected is receiving an unusually high amount of pop-up ads that redirect to fake sites, we recommend that you take the following steps to uninstall any malicious extensions and block all pop-ups. 

Safari Browser

  1. Launch the Safari web browser, and go to Preferences > General. 

  2. Once you’ve reached the General settings, go to security and click on the “Block pop-up windows” option. 

  3. Lastly, you need to go to the “Extensions” tab and uninstall all those pesky extensions that seem suspicious. 

Google Chrome Browser

  1. Launch the Chrome browser and open Preferences > Advanced. 

  2. Once you’ve reached the Advanced settings tab, scroll to the bottom and click on “Reset settings” to restore the original configurations of the browser. 

  3. Once you’ve reset the settings, go back to the Advanced Settings pane, and click on the Privacy & Security tab. 

  4. Click on the “Content settings” option, locate the “Popups and Ads” listing, and click on it to block those pesky pop-up ads. 

Parting Words

At the end of the article, we can only hope that we’ve equipped our readers with the necessary skills needed to combat Mac malware. Having said that, we believe that taking regular care of your Mac computer automatically protects it from facing a malware attack, and strengthens your Mac’s cybersecurity as well.

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