The answer is a small group of Mac users. Just bigger than “nobody.”
Want to read a nightmare story? Better than living through one. See the tale below of the anti-virus that would not die — which relegated a user to repeated stabs at the OS X Terminal (It’s like the Windows Command Line, but with the saucy prospect of killing the entire machine, since it’s Unix underneath Mac OS.)
The user in the sordid tale below eventually solves his problem: a pop-up AV box taking over his Mac. The solution surfaced after communal help from Apple Support, as well as instructions from Sophos to install and de-install the software. I’m just glad I’m not using this one. Some companies have deep Windows benches. Others know Mac OS, or Unix. It’s not a great vote of confidence for the Sophos folks that they have a free “we’ll find viruses” program for Windows, but none for the Mac.
Here’s the link on the Free Sophos Home version nightmare:
Now, just so I don’t dismiss the whole subject, I went to my favorite Mac website, the 23-year-old TidBITS. Under the department Safe Computing, Rich Mogull wrote, “Do you need Mac antivirus software in 2013?” He’s not smug, and he cites a lot of testing, and says that even accounting for the Flashback infections during 2012, there’s not enough reason to use an A/V unless you engage in risky behavior. (See below).
But perhaps before you do, read the Detection report from Thomas Reed, who tested plenty of A/V including ClamXav. And Sophos. Regardless of the fact that even the latter could only find 90 percent of the viruses on a system, Reed echoes the “take over the machine” horror commonplace to the worst A/V solutions. Reed notes that A/V programs can cause significant problems.
“Detection rate is important, but so are other factors. Many anti-virus programs are capable of causing significant problems, and it’s important to understand that examination and comparison of performance and stability were outside the scope of this test. Some of the programs in this test are known troublemakers, regardless of how they perform at detecting malware.
“That said, detection rate is certainly not something to be ignored. When choosing anti-virus software, it should do the job that it is made for as well as possible. There is very little reason to use anti-virus software that has a poor detection rate, especially when Mac OS X already includes a number of basic protections against malware. (See How does Mac OS X protect me?) “
The only A/V I have on my system — not yet engaged — is MacKeeper. Reed says this about that:
In the case of MacKeeper, many believe it to be malware itself. Although it is not strictly malware, it does have issues which I have outlined in the past, in Beware MacKeeper. In my brief testing, it alerted me to a “critical” problem with my computer, consisting of nearly 2,000 “junk files” that it claimed needed to be deleted. Keep in mind that this was a base OS X 10.8.2 system, right after the restore from backup made necessary by Norton. All those “junk files” were normal parts of the system, and removing them would probably have had negative effects. Although I was not able to actually test the effects of removing them, as MacKeeper would not do so without purchasing it, many people have reported that doing so causes problems that require reinstallation of the system.
Reed also debunks the “no viruses on Macs” tale in this post;
Finally, Reed gives his opinion on why A/V is only necessary on the Mac is these cases
However, there are some cases where AV software may be needed right now. For example:
- If you need to keep Java turned on in your web browser, AV software may be a good idea to avoid malware that takes advantage of Java vulnerabilities.
- If you are using a Mac in an environment where AV software is required
- If you frequently trade files with Windows users and don’t want to be accused of passing on a virus
- If you want the peace of mind and don’t mind installing software that may be obtrusive
- If you can’t be bothered to give any thought to what you download, though this is a very dangerous attitude on today’s internet
- If you are not at all tech savvy and have trouble accurately determining what is trustworthy and what is not
Then he drops back to recommending Sophos, and so you can go full circle to the start of this “report on the reports.” Software that cannot be removed without a visit to the Terminal is not something that is worth 90 percent protection. To me, anyway. When Flashback blew through our Macs last year, we had a free option to rub it out, and it did no damage. The limited economic payback on infecting Macs is something that provides one layer of protection. Apple provides another, but there are many times when you’ll just want to go around the Gatekeeper nanny protection — like when purchasing software directly from the vendor, or even downloading an update from the vendor.
In my personal use on the Mac, A/V software is the fussy nanny who won’t let you lick the popsicle down to the stick, because you don’t know where that stick has been. So you toss the popsicle into the trash half-eaten, and the ants appear.
I’ve never had something eliminated from my Mac that caused any damage by an A/V program. In the Stone Ages there was a program called Virex. Which got purchased by EMC and fell victim to an unfortunate accident after that.
The majority of opinions are saying that A/V doesn’t do you much good on the Mac — not that there are no Mac viruses.