What is the best anti-malware program for Mac OS?
August 19, 2019 10:31 AM   Subscribe

My Mac laptop (MacBook Pro, 15 inch, 2018 running OS version 10.14.6) has recently started acting up. I am suspicious I inadvertently installed something I shouldn't have, possibly during an Adobe update. What is the best tool to scan my Mac for malware and delete it?

Symptoms include slow performance, inability to access my email accounts (which seems to have been resolved by resetting my NVRAM or PRAM, whichever is on this machine) and the inability to change the default search engine in Safari from Yahoo, even though preferences are clearly set to Google. My desktop on the same network has none of these issues. There are plenty of sites out there that promise to do amazing things for my Mac, but I was hoping to get more objective information from you guys. Malwarebytes is one I have seen mentioned a lot; is it a good choice or are there better options? As always, thanks in advance for your help.
posted by TedW to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: (I am an Apple-certified tech but I am not your Apple-certified tech) Yes, Malwarebytes is a good option. It can be a little aggressive about trying to get you to sign up for a premium subscription ("real-time protection") but you can absolutely ignore that...you don’t need to pay; you can just run a scan and let it clean things up, and then remove it when you're done. If you are super concerned that your browser is compromised you can download the installer PKG on your other computer and walk it over with a flash drive.
posted by bcwinters at 11:20 AM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

You almost certainly don't have actual malware unless you're super super gullible about clicking random links.

The hodgepodge of symptoms you list are weird. I'm really not sure how an NVRAM reset would influence email access at all.

Do you have any technical people near you who can look at it? (The Apple Store isn't a great option; the quality of their staffing is really, really spotty.)
posted by uberchet at 11:25 AM on August 19, 2019

I disagree with uberchet, it is not that hard to get malware on MacOS. I have gotten attempts at malware installation from a variety of websites, mostly indie webcomics with poor filtering of ad providers. Not running flash helps a ton, it's a vector for a lot of malware.
posted by sydnius at 12:08 PM on August 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wow, I haven’t had flash running on a Mac in several years. I’ve also never had a malware problem in 30+ years of Mac ownership, albeit I am a security obsessive old hacker. Either way it can’t hurt to run malwarebytes once in a while and to practice excellent online hygiene all the time.

That said I also cannot imagine malware that presents with OP’s specific symptoms. Or too why a reset of NVRAM would help with borked email logins. But rule one when something like this starts happening is to BACK EVERYTHING UP right now. Twice.
posted by spitbull at 1:43 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sketchy sites tend to push malware disguised as a Flash installer, seen it dozens of times.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:59 PM on August 19, 2019

Best answer: I am suspicious I inadvertently installed something I shouldn't have, possibly during an Adobe update.

If you're referring to a Flash update, there should be a Flash Player control panel in your System Preferences window, which is the only place from which you should ever update Flash. Even if you get a legit in-browser update pop-up, you should close the pop-up, launch the control panel and check for/run the update from there.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:57 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your answers; I haven’t had time to fool around with fixing my laptop yet (it is not my primary computer and I can easily live without it for a while) but will definitely try it out this weekend and report back. Uberchet was right about the NVRAM reset not fixing the email; it has gone back to giving me an unable to access account error. I had actually reset the NVRAM hoping it would fix whatever is forcing Safari to use Yahoo as the default search engine no matter what I specify in preferences. If all else fails I can go back to a Time Machine backup and restore from a few days ago without losing anything important.
posted by TedW at 8:25 AM on August 23, 2019

Response by poster: Well, I finally got around to having Malwarebytes scan my laptop. It found seven problematic files; after deleting them and restarting my email works, Google is once again my default search engine, and everything is much faster. I will definitely be much more careful the next time some website tells me to update Flash (or anything else).
posted by TedW at 5:38 AM on September 1, 2019

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