Can a Mac Get a Windows Virus?

Question

I’m getting a Windows blue screen error on my Macbook that won’t let me do anything on the Internet. I’m confused; can a Mac get a Windows virus?

Answer

This question was answered on August 26, 2015. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/people/linecon0It’s not possible for a Mac to contract an actual Windows specific virus, so the answer is no.

What you’re most likely experiencing is a browser-based infection, not something that has infected the Mac operating system.

This type of infection is becoming much more common in the Mac world because scammers are targeting victims via their browsers, not the operating system they’re using.

The severity of the infection can range from benign to debilitating, depending upon the specific malware that makes its way into your computer.

In your case, it sounds like you contracted a browser hijacker that won’t allow you to do much other than respond to their scam.

The fact that it makes references to Windows is a clear indication that it’s a scam message designed to scare you into paying for cleanup help, but it assumes that you are running Windows.

Keep in mind, the vast majority of computers on the Internet are still running Windows (Netmarketshare.com has it at just over 90%), so most scams make reference to Microsoft or Windows in order to increase their chances of snaring a victim.

The methods of getting a Mac infected are the same as it is for Windows: malicious downloads, rigged websites, spam, phishing scams, malicious social media posts or infected ‘free’ downloads (like screensavers or games) to name a few.

Though the severity of infections may not be as bad as it can be on Windows, Mac users can no longer assume that they don’t have to worry about malware.

You may have noticed that it’s been a long time since Apple has run those ads making fun of Windows from a security standpoint; that’s not a coincidence.

Many popular malware tools, like MalwareBytes that were only available to Windows users now offer Mac versions because it’s now a very real problem.

I started using TrendMicro’s Internet Security Suite on my MacBook some time ago because we were seeing a dramatic increase in customers bringing infected Macs into our stores.

A common sentiment from hardcore Mac users is that anti-virus software will slow your computer down, which was true with some early versions of the programs.

We’ve not seen any measurable difference in performance when security software is added to a Mac, so I wouldn’t let the fear of it slowing your computer down keep you from protecting yourself.

Some of the more insidious infections that are known to hit Macs generally come by way of downloads from third-party websites, so make sure you stick to Apple’s App Store for anything you want to download and install.

You also need to make sure you are keeping your third-party programs, such as Adobe Flash and Reader updated, as they can also become the gateway to infection, just like with Windows systems.

Don’t forget to install OSX updates and browser updates as soon as you get the notice, especially if you are using third-party browsers, like Chrome or Firefox (which I prefer).

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on August 26, 2015