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When the media reports on new malware attacks and viruses, Mac laptop users frequently tune out confidently. For years people have presumed that Macs are unable to get viruses and that Mac OS is safer for our information than Windows. But times have changed, and it would be wise for Mac users to start paying attention.

Can Macs get viruses? Yes — with growing popularity of Macs and the advanced sophistication of malware, there have been more and more documented cases of attacks on Apple machines. In fact, Mac malware is reported to be on the rise in the recent years. While it's still much more likely for a PC to be the victim of a malware or virus, MacBooks are not invulnerable.

Macs are most at risk from a variety of adware, phishing scams and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). Keep in mind that various social engineering tricks to get your credentials and sensitive information are platform independent. However, if you're smart and proactive, you'll be able to avoid headaches and potential financial loss that comes from these troubles. Follow these tips from our experts to keep your Mac safe.

Know the Signs

Most malware is invisible, so you may not even notice that your computer was affected right away. The tell-tale signs of an infected computer are the same for Windows as for Mac OS, and none of them are good. You may notice your computer running more slowly, or suddenly there is a new toolbar you didn't install that claims to improve searching or shopping experiences. Your web searches may lead you astray, or the web pages you visit are filled with advertising. Random pop-ups are also a red flag.

If you notice any of these signs, delete your cache and downloads file, empty your trash and shut down your computer. When you restart, run anti-virus software and monitor your system closely. Avoid typing passwords or credit card information until you're sure your computer is clean.

Surf Smartly

Google has become so ubiquitous a company that it's become a verb that everyone understands – but not everyone should be using Google Chrome. Safari is the built-in web browser on Mac laptops for good reason, and experts suggest you use it for better privacy protection.

Google collects data from your browsing history to use for advertising. Safari also offers a random password generator when you are creating new accounts, which is yet another step in your online security. Finally, Safari also screens all downloaded files to determine if they pose a threat to your system. You're always able to cancel the download if there's something suspicious.

Stay Updated

Don't delay when Apple rolls out updates for your computer. Some users believe they should wait until Apple "works the bugs out," but that's unwise. Mac OS updates are created to address serious concerns that may involve safety and security, so waiting to install the update will put your computer at risk. Go to the App Store to make sure your computer is running the latest versions of your programs and operating system. All updates installed in the last 30 days are also listed there.

Keep Passwords Safe

One of the simplest ways to protect your Mac is to protect your passwords and make them strong enough that hackers can't guess them. Always include numbers and special characters, like an exclamation point or other symbols, in your passwords. Even better, use the iCloud Keychain. Your Mac can keep all your passwords – and credit card information – safe behind an encrypted wall. Not sure how? Follow the directions from Apple Support.

Consider Anti-Virus Software

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Antivirus for Mac software is often overlooked as a necessity for Mac users, but the reality is that a dedicated protection is the smartest way to protect your machine from ransomware and adware, as well as shielding your financial and personal information when shopping online. There is no need to worry about slowing down your computer; it's worth the negligible time and investment to have peace of mind.

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