One of the best things about macOS is that it’s incredibly secure and gets far fewer viruses than other operating systems. However, that doesn’t mean it’s immune. There have been plenty of incidents of malware harming Macs in recent years. Thankfully, though, it’s still relatively rare for Macs to be infected with spyware and when it happens, it’s no too difficult to get rid of it.
The recent controversy over Cambridge Analytica accessing the Facebook profiles of tens of millions of users has made the importance of our private data headline news. However, while Facebook providing access to your data to third parties may be undesirable and possibly unethical, it’s not illegal. On the other hand, using spyware to access information about you is illegal in many countries.
What is spyware?
Spyware is malicious code that finds its way onto your computer and then sucks up personal data — that could be personal information about you, financial details, keystrokes, web browsing habits, or even images from your webcam.
- With Malwarebytes for Mac, you can run a Threat Scan whenever your computer is turned on. Scheduled scans are available for the Malwarebytes for Mac Premium and Trial versions. After a scan finishes, you have the option to view a detailed scan report. Open Malwarebytes for Mac. On the Scanner card, click the blue Scan button.
- Bitdefender is another popular software to protect your mac from various threats like malware, virus, trojans, adware, spyware, unwanted software, and much more. The best thing about Bitdefender is that apart from protecting you from regular threats, it can actively scan in multiple layers and protect your system from ransomware.
There are four main types of spyware:
Adware is probably the most common type of spyware. It’s also the most obvious, because the information gathered by the spyware is used to display adverts or pop-up windows. It’s very frustrating and hugely inconvenient, though it’s unlikely to do real damage to you or your Mac.
Apple introduced malware detection to the Mac OS with Snow Leopard (Mac OS 10.6). This system consists of the quarantine of any app downloaded from the Internet, the use of Code Signing.
This is what adware actually looks like
As you can see it executes commands to 'download offers' that a user will see on their computer.
Trojans are files that look legitimate, like software updates or movies and they’re designed to fool users into downloading them. Once you’ve done that, they will access your personal data and could do serious harm to your Mac.
3. Cookie trackers
Cookie trackers are similar to adware in that they are used to track your browsing habits and web searches. That information can then be used to display adware or for any other reason the hacker chooses.
A keylogger is a piece of code, installed usually without the user’s knowledge or permission, that tracks what keys are pressed. By doing that, the keylogger can gain access to personal data such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information.
How to remove spyware from Mac
Thankfully, while spyware is very annoying, and potentially damaging, it’s usually not too difficult to remove.
1. Scan your Mac with CleanMyMac X
Use a dedicated tool like CleanMyMac X to find and neutralize spyware on your Mac. CleanMyMac removes not only spyware but all other malware threats, such as ransomware, worms, and cryptocurrency miners. Therefore, when you scan your system with CleanMyMac X, you may be sure that all vulnerabilities will be identified.
Here’s how to use it:
- Download the free version of CleanMyMac and launch the app.
- Choose Malware Removal tab.
- Click Scan.
- Click Remove.
Talking about CleanMyMac X, I can't recommend its Malware Monitor feature enough. Checking your Mac in real-time, it notifies you when there is a risk of spyware infecting your machine. What it does exactly is monitor Launch Agents and other places on your Mac for any unauthorized presence. That's a bit like gatekeeper.
2. Update your Mac to the latest version
macOS has built-in tools to remove known malware, including spyware.
- Go to the Apple menu and click About this Mac.
- Click Software Update. You’ll be taken to the App Store. If you’re not running the latest version of macOS, you’ll see a software update waiting to be installed. Click Update and follow the instructions.
- If you are running the latest version of macOS and no update is available, restart your Mac. When it restarts, it will scan for known malware and remove it.
3. Check your Applications folder
Go to the Applications folder on your Mac and look for applications you don’t recognise. If you see any, you should uninstall them. However, don’t just drag them to the Trash, that won’t uninstall them properly and will leave potentially harmful files behind. Instead, use an app like CleanMyMac X to uninstall them.
CleanMyMac uninstalls applications completely, removing all traces of it from your Mac. You can download it free here. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, do the following:
- Launch it from your Applications folder.
- Click on Uninstaller in the Utilities section.
- Scroll through the list of applications until you find the one you want to get rid of.
- Check the box next to it.
- Click Uninstall.
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3. Get rid of browser extensions you don’t need
Some spyware is installed in the form of browser extensions. These are mini-programs that run alongside web browsers like Safari and Chrome and provide additional features. They can be very useful, but they can also be troublesome if they’re installed without your knowledge or permission.
Here’s how to get rid of Safari extensions you didn’t install or don’t need:
- Launch Safari.
- Click on the Safari menu and choose Preferences.
- Click on the Extensions tab and look through the list of extensions. If you see one you didn’t install or don’t want, click on it and press the Uninstall button.
- Repeat for every extension you want to uninstall.
The process is similar for Chrome.
Along with browser extensions, it’s also worth getting rid of cookies you don’t want as well. And the app we’ve mentioned above, CleanMyMac X, can help you with that:
- Click on the Privacy tool.
- Click Scan.
- Click on the name of the browser whose cookies you want to delete.
- Click the drop down arrow next to Cookies.
- Check the box next to the cookies you want to get rid of.
- Click Remove.
The last resort is to restore from a backup, either Time Machine or a third party backup tool. Assuming you’ve been running a regular backup schedule, you can just choose a snapshot from just before you noticed the spyware and restore from that. You should copy any documents you created or updated since the snapshot to another storage drive or online service first.
Spyware sounds scary and it can potentially damage both you and your Mac. However, in most cases, getting rid of it is not too difficult. And with the help of CleanMyMac X it could actually be very easy.
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System cleanup in one click
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.
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
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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.
Spyware For Mac
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.
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