I Think My Mac Has a Virus. What Should I Do?

November 20th, 2020
Working From Home

You find yourself surprised that your Mac has a virus. What do you do? There’s no need to hit the panic button, but many Mac users do.
One of the reasons for panic or shock is that many Mac users still believe their machines are more secure than Windows and the chances of an infection getting through are few and far between. Apple exercises tight control over the hardware that runs MacOS. Its closed system drives the belief that it is safe and secure. The chances of attackers exploiting hardware vulnerabilities to hack into a system is definitely lower as compared to Windows. But this doesn’t mean a Mac is the epitome of security.

What are the tell-tale signs of a virus?

At a macro level, you may start noticing that your system is behaving oddly. There are certain subtle changes that plant the seed of doubt in your mind that something seems off, like programs opening more slowly. This is the time to investigate. Keep an eye out for certain clues:

  • Ads and pop-ups:  If you are seeing a lot of ads suddenly, there is very little doubt you have a virus on your hands. Pop-up ads will show up on screen, even when you are not browsing the internet.
  • Unexpected slowdown: This is a huge tell-tale sign. If your Mac is slowing down and you see no reason for this happening, there is a possibility that you have unknowingly installed malware on your system.
  • Seeing programs you did not download: If you see new icons on your desktop for applications that you did not download, you have a potential unwanted program (PUP) infection on your hands. You may also see a pop-up telling you “Your Mac is infected. Click here to download antivirus.” You do that and just like that, you have downloaded a potent malware onto your system.
  • Browser redirection: If your default browser is taking you to sites that you don’t want to go to, there is very good chance that your browser has been hijacked courtesy a virus.
  • Personal files encrypted: Do not underestimate threats emanating from ransomware. Think of a scenario wherein you want to access your personal files but find these are encrypted and have become inaccessible. This is when you know your Mac’s been hit by a ransomware attack.

How do you deal with a virus on your Mac?

The first thing you must do: don’t ignore what the signs are telling you. You are not reading tea leaves here; these are specific signs of infection and you must heed them. So, once you suspect your Mac is infected, disconnect from the internet. This is critical – it ensures no more data is sent to the malware/attacker server. Then make your way to the ‘activity monitor’ and go through the CPU tab to check all programs that are running. Stop the ones you think are malicious. You also need to remove unwanted applications. You can do so by going to ‘Finder,’ toggling over to ‘applications,’ and removing apps that you believe are malicious or which you did not download. Do this by dragging them to the trash icon and emptying trash.

These steps are the bare minimum you must do on an immediate basis. There are some Mac users who think that they can just follow the steps above, unplug everything and reboot, and they are good to go. But you need to remember, you are battling sophisticated viruses capable of hiding on an operating system, aren’t easy to catch, and which demand a focused approach towards identifying and removing them.

Infection confirmation

You need to make sure whether your virus fears are correct. This can be done by deploying a virus scanner to search your Mac for viruses. The objective here is to zero in on the viruses. This leaves no room for doubt that your Mac is indeed infected.

Employ a virus removal tool

In order to remove virus from your Mac, it is imperative that you deploy a virus removal tool. Typically, a comprehensive antivirus solution will offer dual features – virus scanning and removal. Ideally, you must do a bit of research into the antivirus solution you choose to make sure that it has a range of capabilities that will keep your Mac safe and secure at all times. This tool should not only protect against future malware threats, but also scan your system to identify and eliminate all existing threats on your system. If one virus got through, there may be another waiting in the wings.

Critical tips to prepare for an attack

Never underestimate the ability of viruses to evolve and evade even the most stringent security protocols. It is imperative that you follow certain safety measures that will ensure work continuity despite a virus attack:

  • Scan your system for viruses regularly. Just because there is no virus on your system today doesn’t mean that it won’t be attacked the next week.
  • Always backup all important files; in the event of a ransomware attack, you will still have access to these files.
  • Make it a habit to change passwords regularly, especially when you think your Macs has been hacked.
  • A reboot and unplug isn’t the answer to virus woes. An advanced antivirus solution is.

Sophisticated threats demand a sophisticated solution

You need a Mac antivirus solution that is rich in features. It should offer anti-ransomware capabilities, extensive privacy protection, and end-to-end protection. Sophos Home brings these capabilities to the table, plus it’s backed by the power of advanced labs that are constantly updating their vast information repository of compromised websites and malware. It is easy to use and offers a power packed punch to all kinds of advanced viruses.

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