The debate whether Mac/Apple computers, desktops or laptops, need anti-virus protection has been going on for what it seems like decades. And it probably has. Windows users are virtually forced to buy some type of anti-virus protection because the Windows operating system is not only the most popular, but also the operating system that allows third party developers to create hardware and software add-ons that make Windows an enticing product for businesses and average consumers alike.
Apple’s OSX operating system is proprietary, meaning that most of the source code is not easily available, and if it is available has very tight restrictions on how it can be used by a third-party. This makes is very difficult for hackers to get their hands on the key code that will give them the ability to create effective malware or viruses that will significantly affect Apple’s OSX.
It is somewhat deceptive to say that Apple computers never have had a problem with viruses or malware. Up until 2006, Apple’s OSX system did not have a single report of a virus directed at its operating system. Then, the OSX/Oomp-A or Leap.A virus worked its way into Apple Cocoa applications, spread through the iChat messaging system. It was actually quite harmless in the grand scheme of things, but it was nevertheless a virus. Since 2006, Mac computers have had to deal with a new threat an average of once a year.
Which leaves the actual answer to the question quite fuzzy. Apple updates its iOS software far more often than it does its OSX systems – a solid piece of evidence as to the defenses Apple has made a core part of its operating system. Talk to any Apple computer technical person and they will assure you how serious Apple is about their data security. Also ask the FBI and the federal government.
Yet most Mac users today will recommend that users have some type of anti-virus installed on their Macs. The reason appears to be obvious: the world is changing, and it will only be a matter of time before someone creates a serious threat to the stability of OSX. The current thinking is that it is better to be safe than sorry. For its part, Apple Computer has made a number of releases to keep up with the security demands:
Mavericks (10.9) – 2013
Yosemite (10.,10) – 2014
El Capitan (10.11) – 2015
Sierra (10.12) – 2016
Not every new release was created to deal with security issues, but it is clear that some of the upgrades and updates have addressed security issues.
The conclusion is to follow the lead of current Apple owners because when it comes to desktops and laptops Apple has a solid and loyal following. “Need” is a harsh word because it is likely you can run your Mac safely without fear of viral or malware infection all year round. Even if you do pick up the annual malware infection you can be relatively sure Apple will alert you and have a solution for it relatively quickly. The most basic reason for this is they take 99% responsibility for what goes on with their operating systems because they are proprietary.