Malwarebytes for Mac – A Real World Experience

Malwarebytes for Mac OS X

MacKeeper is one of the most unpleasant pieces of Mac malware or adware around. As a friend found out, install it and watch your Mac die. Overtime other software will be installed, adverts will appear almost endlessly and as your computer gets worse they will try to sell tools to allegedly fix your problem.

Removing MacKeeper is also problematic, to put it bluntly it will put up a fight. Often if not removed totally successfully the revenge for trying is to destroy your Mac even more. Fortunately, though there is a way round the problem. Malwarebytes.

Malwarebytes is a well known anti-malware tool which is available for Mac, Android, Windows, IOS, Mac and Chromebook. It should not be seen as an entire computer security suite and indeed if you look at reviews on it, the results often seem worse than more general anti-virus/security suites. Also on a pure cost/feature basis it looks far worse on almost every level. However, the reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt.

So why consider Malwarebytes if it sounds so bad?

Malwarebytes is a good defence and clean-up tool. For example, on the infested Mac it removed MacKeeper and returned the system to being fully functioning. All that it took was a complete full scan, followed by a restart and it was totally gone. Which beats the need to try and remove it manually – with the problems that can cause.

On a more general level, Malwarebytes is very good at removing potentially unwanted programmes and excessive cookies etc. Therefore potentially reducing problems such as excess adverts while visiting websites. It also promises to block ransomware, I cannot vouch for that feature as fortunately it has not come up. That said over at the PC security channel which focuses in Windows, they say that the ransomware detection features are of debatable quality. Scan time (after the initial scan) is also very fast.

In many of my past experiences running anti-virus software on the Mac whether that was Clam XAV, Avast, Norton or Intego the experience almost always ended up negative. Malwarebytes is so far the only tool that does not seem to have made any negative impact on performance or stability. Also the free version is an idea tool to see if there is anything wrong and hopefully to remove the offending item. In the past I used anti-virus software on my Mac to largely avoid accidentally sending on infested Word or other files into my Windows using colleagues.

Malwarebytes offers a paid and free version. The paid version offers real time protection, scheduled scans and automatic updates. It is some way behind the Windows version which offers extra features such as suspicious website alerts. The free version offers you the ability to scan and repair your computer manually plus undertake manual updates. You can however get a free trial of paid premium version.

One downside with Malwarebytes is that in many detection tests it seems to come off worse than other tools (on Windows). While it may not be correct, it could be same situation on Mac but I do not have any data to back this up. Malwarebytes say this is due to the nature of their software and the threats it is tuned to detect. They also increasingly say it is a full anti-virus, I would say that this is not the case. Instead it is a malware etc detection and removal tool, and if taken as that is probably as effective and if not more so that other solutions.

Would I recommend Malwarebytes for Mac OS X? Yes, as a free removal tool it even solved a real world problem (which was not even set up for a lab study) quickly and easily. Also it had no or minimal impact on performance. There is of course a debate on whether to install anti-virus or similar software on Mac OS X. While the Mac is generally more secure, it is not bomb proof and as this recent experience points out there are threats out there.

Positive

  • Removed a real threat without any problems
  • Almost no impact on system performance
  • Free version probably good enough for most Mac users
  • Fast scan times

Negative

  • Seems expensive for what you get
  • No real time detection of suspicious website

More general advice on how to remove MacKeeper can be found in the Apple Support Site.

German website AV Test has a good review of detection rates of Mac OS X Anti-Virus tools.

Transparency statement: no payment has been received from Malwarbytes for this review. The author has been using the software as a paying customer for many years on different platforms.

About Rod McCall

Rod McCall is a researcher in the field of human-computer interaction in areas such as augmented reality, mobile gaming in-car systems and virtual environments. He has a passing interest in economics after not being entirely convinced by the rubbish presented as fact during lectures on that particular subject while at uni.
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