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Macs may be a far less tempting target for malware and viruses, but they’re not immune from attack. Accordingly, good antivirus software will protect your Mac on all of these fronts. Many antivirus suites provide a decent level of protection, but a few rise above all others by providing the very best in performance. You can read about the best antivirus suites for PC on our sister site, PCWorld.
1 million was lost to cybercrime every minute in 2018. Enterprise security firm Cylance is launching its first consumer-grade package: Cylance Smart Antivirus. The new software claims to use advanced, predictive AI to kill threats, all with a consumer-friendly interface and minimal penalties to device performance. Sophos Home Premium has the most extensive and up-to-date approach to fighting malware at an unbeatable price. That means preventing the download, installation, or execution of malicious software. Since you can encounter threats by visiting compromised or malicious websites, receiving virus-laden attachments, or accessing USB drives with malware, good AV software should scan on a continuous basis unless you configure it otherwise. And ideally, files identified as malicious should be quarantined into a special storage area managed by the AV software, with the option to automatically delete files known to be malware or repair normal documents that also carry devious payloads.
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Great AV suites also will monitor the filesystem for certain kinds of changes. Ransomware—which is malware that will rapidly encrypt user files like documents and mailboxes and then delete the originals—has become a huge moneymaker on other platforms. As a prime opportunity for attackers, it’s the greatest danger Mac users likely face as a category. Good antivirus software should also use minimal computational resources. That’s especially the case these days—AV monitoring hasn’t become much more complicated than when it first became available, and faster, multi-core CPUs can easily handle the demands of running AV software in the background without disturbing your active work. Beyond these primary features, an easy-to-navigate interface and extra features are worth factoring into your decision. This was to ensure that previous app installations didn’t interfere with new ones—sometimes AV software treats other AV software as an infection.
The latter doesn’t damage or expose your computer or its files but may consume power and CPU cycles. Because the testing effectively looks at a combination of virus databases and behavior, they remain good gauges even after many months. When an antivirus software package lacks a rating from a known security research lab, we do more extensive testing with real malware. While there’s no reason to panic, you should consider a few reasonable issues. First, an antivirus product may upload the complete text of files flagged to the cloud, where it can be analyzed by separate tools hosted there. This practice is normal and sensible: Some malware can detect when a running process may examine it, and will then engage in subterfuge. Antivirus software makers also can access their massive databases to examine files with characteristics that trigger their algorithms—certain elements that match known malware.
Second, this software may also rely partly or entirely on cloud-based checks of URLs, malware, and the like. Accordingly, an AV package might upload every URL you visit, metadata about files, signatures of files, information about your computer’s hardware, a list of running or installed applications, and more. Companies vary on their disclosure of such policies, and may not let you opt out of this kind of sharing. We note issues in each review as available. Third, anti-virus software makers also get a sense of what behavior is happening on your computer that’s being monitored or blocked, and may use that information for their own purposes.
In some cases, you can opt out of this information gathering. We’ll keep evaluating new and refreshed software on a regular basis, so be sure to come back to see what else we’ve put through the ringer. To comment on this article and other Macworld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Norton Security Deluxe is the most comprehensive security package we tested, but it lacks advanced monitoring of ransomware and complete Windows malware identification—the latter of which should be a given.