14 Security Solutions for MacOS Big Sur Put to the Test
Already back in May 2021, an extremely remarkable statement was made as a side comment in a US court concerning the security of MacOS: During a trial between Epic and Apple, an Apple manager blurted out that the level of MacOS malware was not acceptable. With his testimony, he actually only wanted to prove the argument that security was better due to a walled-off iOS system – but by doing so, he admitted that Apple is aware of the vast malware existing for MacOS.
Every MacOS user – whether in a consumer or corporate environment – ought to be well aware of the everyday dangers coursing through the Internet in the form of infected files or links. After all, Macs are worthy targets, as their users are considered well-to-do, and especially the new Apple CPUs offer great performance for botnets.
14 security solutions put to a lab test
For more protection on the Mac, the lab at AV-TEST examined a total of 14 products. The 8 consumer protection packages were from Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, F-Secure, NortonLifeLock, Trend Micro and Protected.net. For Macs used in a corporate environment, the lab took aim at 6 additional protection solutions: Acronis, Bitdefender, ESET, FireEye, Sophos and Symantec. All the products were examined in November and December 2021 in the categories of protection, performance and usability. MacOS Big Sur 11.6 was used as a test platform.
Security solutions for MacOS
Detection rates: MacOS protection software in the test focus
Each product can achieve up to 6 points in a particular category, or a maximum 18 points in total. AV-TEST also awards a security certificate for the successful completion of a security test. To mark their achievements, the lab issues consumer products the certificate of AV-TEST CERTIFIED, and solutions for corporate users the certificate of AV-TEST APPROVED.
The current test shows that the products for consumer and corporate users offer excellent protection. Accordingly, the lab awarded the maximum 18 points to the protection packages from Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, F-Secure, NortonLifeLock and Trend Micro. The package from Protected.net followed at the end with a very good score of 17 points.
In terms of protection solutions for Mac enterprise endpoints, the result turned out even better: full 18 points for the solutions from Bitdefender, ESET, FireEye, Sophos and Symantec. The product from Acronis followed close behind with 17.5 points.
No chance for malware
While the number of daily new malware samples for MacOS may not be as enormous as in the Windows ecosystem, they are constantly growing. AV-Atlas.org, the research platform for spam, malware, and threat trends, shows the growth of the past few years. The most recent tally is at just under 900,000 registered malware samples for MacOS, along with 880,000 potentially unwanted applications – or PUAs for short.
The lab at AV-TEST evaluated all the products in terms of how well they identify, quarantine and delete pure MacOS malware. In the group of products for consumers, 7 out of 8 products managed to identify 100 percent of all malware samples: Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, F-Secure, NortonLifeLock and Trend Micro. Only the package from Protected.net committed minor detection errors: 99.2 percent. This resulted in only 5 points – all other products received 6 points.
By contrast, the corporate endpoint solutions delivered perfect results without exception. Acronis, Bitdefender, ESET, FireEye, Sophos and Symantec: All protection solutions detected 100 percent of the attackers in the test.
Nobody can hold back this system!
Security packages and solutions are intended to protect devices and, in doing so, use as few system resources as possible. As this was not always the case in previous tests, the lab examined the category of performance for all products with respect to the resources required. As part of the test, the team performed a variety of tasks on a reference Mac, such as copying files, downloads, launching programs or installing apps. The testers noted the times required as a reference. In the test, the lab repeated all the tasks with an installed protection solution and compared the results to the reference values.
All products for consumer Mac users showed excellent findings and thus received the maximum 6 points for this. Almost all of the products among the corporate solutions performed well. Only Acronis Cyber Protect slowed down the copying of data a little bit. This resulted in half a point being taken off: 5.5 points.
Avira Antivirus Pro
NortonLifeLock Norton 360
FireEye Endpoint Security
Bitdefender Endpoint Security for Mac
Check for false alarms
In the test category of usability, each package and each solution is examined in terms of false alarms. As part of the drill, each product was required to scan over 80,000 harmless files, in addition to monitoring installation and execution of dozens of programs.
The result could not have been better: All products, for consumers as well as for corporate users, correctly identified the harmless files and did not issue any false positives. Thus, all products received the full 6 points.
Additional tests in the Lab
At this point, the test for all Mac products was complete, the points awarded, and the certificates issued. Given that many Macs work side-by-side with Windows PC, however, whether privately or in a network, the lab also conducts an unscored evaluation of how well Mac protection software also identifies Windows malware. While a Windows malware threat cannot harm a Mac, it can propagate from a Mac onto Windows PCs.
In a further step – once again unscored – the lab also checks how well so-called PUAs on a Mac are identified. These are potentially unwanted applications which, although they pose no threat, tend to annoy users due to advertising or other operations.
For the Windows malware test, the lab uses just under 2,500 samples of Trojans and other viruses. Just under 1,000 selected programs are used for the Mac PUA test.
Among the consumer products, Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender and Trend Micro demonstrated over 99 percent detection in both additional tests. F-Secure, NortonLifeLock and Protected.net couldn't quite keep up.
Among the corporate products, Bitdefender and FireEye each achieved over 99 percent detection of PUAs and Windows malware. Acronis, ESET, Sophos and Symantec achieved between 95 and 99 percent.
MacOS Security software put to the test
The latest test shows perfect results for nearly all candidates – not only among the packages for consumers but also among the Mac solutions for corporate users.
Of the 8 packages for consumers, a total of 7 achieved the maximum point score of 18. They came from Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, F-Secure, NortonLifeLock and Trend Micro. This means that users can focus on the additional features of the security packages, as they are equivalent in terms of security.
The Mac endpoint solutions afford corporate users a wide selection, as here as well, there are almost exclusively top scores. The solutions from Bitdefender, ESET, FireEye, Sophos and Symantec received the maximum achievable 18 points in the test. Acronis committed a tiny error and thus came in marginally lower at 17.5 points. All corporate products received the AV-TEST APPROVED certificate.