Check files on your Mac for malware with VirusTotal

Malware on the Mac is rare, but it exists and it can infect your computer. Take care!

Viruses, Trojans, spyware and other types of malware are to be found on the internet, but the internet also provides means to protect your Mac. Use VirusTotal to stay safe.

If you only ever install software from the Mac App Store, you probably won’t see any of the malware that is on the internet. Apple has strict rules over what apps can and can’t do and the company performs checks to make sure no-one is breaking the rules.

It isn’t impossible for malware to sneak in, but it is very unlikely. There are dangers outside of the Mac App Store store and you need to be careful.

Why not get all of your software from the Mac App Store then? The problem is that not all software is in the store and some of the best software is outside of the store. Apps downloaded elsewhere are often more powerful and have more features.

Unreliable software sources

Unfortunately, some sources of software are unreliable and you need to be careful. Cracked, wares, and pirate sites should be avoided because they are riddled with malware of some sort.

Malware is not only in apps and it could be hidden in files too, such as add-ons, templates, documents, and other files downloaded from the internet. You need to be careful. The Mac is more secure than some types of computer, but it is not immune from malware.

VirusTotal service

VirusTotal is a website that enables you to check files for malware. It is a malware scanner, but it is not a single app. It is a collection of 52 different malware scanners. Upload a file and 52 of the best malware detection tools scan it and report whether it is safe or unsafe.

The service is not specifically for Macs and OS X apps and it gets used a lot by Windows owners, but it does scan Mac apps and files.

Go to the VirusTotal website and click the Choose File button or drag an app or a file from a Finder window. Click the Scan it! button and wait for the results.

Use the VirusTotal website to check files to see if they are a virus or malware

Bear in mind that file uploads are slower than file downloads, so even with a fast internet connection it can take some time to upload a big file. The maximum is 128MB, but that might take all day on a slow internet connection. You’ll be OK on fibre optic though. It’s best to use this service for small-ish files.

A lot of people use VirusTotal, so you may find that someone has already uploaded the file. You can see the results without needing to upload it or scan it.

Use the VirusTotal website to check files to see if they are a virus or malware

When a file is uploaded, VirusTotal starts scanning and then presents the results from each scanner.

Use the VirusTotal website to check files to see if they are a virus or malware

Virus false positives

The results are usually pretty clear and it is common for all or most of the scranners to declare the file safe or malware. All 52 results are displayed with green ticks next to scanner's that gave the file the thumbs up.

The reason for using 52 scanners is to avoid false positives. Occasionally a malware scanner will mistake a safe file for malware, so if 51 results are OK and 1 says it’s malware, it is fairly safe to assume that the one positive result is a false positive - a mistake.

The results from the VirusTotal website showing whether a file is malware or safe

You have to use your judgment when there are mixed results. It doesn’t happen often and mostly all the scanners will say safe or malware.

VirusTotal Uploader

VirusTotal provides an app to help with uploading and checking files for malware. Using the website is not difficult, but you may prefer the uploader. Download the VirusTotal Uploader app, double click the .dmg file to open it and drag the app to the Applications folder.

Get the VirusTotal Uploader tool to check apps and files for viruses

Run the app and drag files to it to upload them and scan them. It is slower than uploading through the website, so use it if you are not in a hurry. Be patient, leave it running and check it later to see the results.

The VirusTotal Uploader for OS X checks files for malware

Malware is still quite rare on the Mac, but that does not mean you are completely safe. Check files that seem suspcious and take care when downloading from websites on the internet.

 

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Comments

1

Since I have a mac I sometimes feel like i don't have to be as worried about malware but I guess just because I have a mac doesn't mean that my computer cannot be compromised. Good to know about this site!

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