Sep 2, 2022 - Technology

Apple is now scanning more proactively for Mac malware

Ina Fried
An icon with the apple logo and a padlock

Apple has quietly beefed up the malware-fighting capabilities of the Mac by tweaking the system software to scan for malicious apps more proactively, as noted by Ars Technica and others.

Why it matters: Like all elements of computer security, fighting malware is a cat-and-mouse battle. While the Mac has traditionally had fewer problems than Windows on this front, the Mac also gets less attention from commercial anti-spyware software, putting more pressure on Apple to keep its systems clean.

Catch up quick: Apple doesn't have user-visible malware scanning like Defender, which is built into Windows, but it does have some features that work behind the scenes to detect and block unwanted software.

  • One of those, XProtect, is designed to scan, often at startup, for certain malware, while a separate Malware Removal Tool can delete unwanted code.
  • Efforts on this front date back at least to 2009's Snow Leopard, though other features have been added over the years.

What's new: A new version of XProtect that began showing up earlier this year goes further, both remediating and scanning for malware and doing so more frequently, perhaps as often as every hour or two, according to Howard Oakley, who closely monitors what Apple does on this front, and wrote about the changes in a blog post.

What they're saying: "In the last six months macOS malware protection has changed more than it did over the previous seven years," Oakley said. "It has now gone fully pre-emptive, as active as many commercial anti-malware products, provided that your Mac is running Catalina or later."

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