Apple frequently releases new updates to its operating systems with bug fixes and security improvements. Additionally, macOS also has a system that allows Apple to silently provide anti-malware protections to Mac computers. And according to a recent study, the company introduced significant security updates under the hood of macOS this year.
Anti-malware protection in macOS
Like any other software in the market, macOS is susceptible to malware. And while Macs don’t have an app like Windows Defender that is clearly visible to users, the Mac operating system has a tool called “XProtect” that constantly scans for malware in the background.
XProtect was first introduced with Mac OS X Snow Leopard in 2009, and it can not only find malware on a Mac, but also get remote updates from Apple with new malware definitions without require a full macOS update. Another similar tool from Apple, Malware Removal Tool (MRT), works in the same way to remove malware present on a Mac.
Eclectic Light Company researcher Howard Oakley (via Ars-Technica) has been monitoring both tools for some time to get an idea of how Apple secures its computers. With macOS Monterey 12.3, which was introduced earlier this year, Apple released a new version of XProtect that replaces the old MRT more aggressively.
Since then, Oakley says macOS malware protection “has changed more than in the previous seven years.” For example, Oakley notes that XProtect scans the Mac at least once a day “during periods of low user activity.” The frequency may vary depending on the situation, and the malware scan may run hourly.
Previously, macOS scanned the computer for malware at a much lower frequency and mostly after startup. Although the latest updates do not immunize macOS against malware, the new system makes it harder for Mac users to be targeted by such attacks.
Older versions of macOS also receive updates
The best part is that even Macs running older versions of macOS benefit from the new version of XProtect. According to the researcher, the update has also been made available for computers running macOS Catalina and later.
As for Macs running even older versions of macOS, Oakley reveals that the latest security update for versions between OS X El Capitan and macOS Mojave was released in April 2022. Of course, if you still a Mac stuck on this software, it might be time to consider upgrading to a new machine, as it looks like Apple will no longer be releasing regular security updates for it.
Earlier today, Apple released iOS 12.5.6 for older devices like the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and first-generation iPad Air. The update fixes two security vulnerabilities that were also fixed for new devices with iOS 15.6.1.
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