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Microsoft’s Defender Security Suite Is Coming to macOS

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Mac users in years past could look smugly at Windows users, who were plagued by malware that targeted their much more popular platform. Microsoft didn’t even start bundling the Windows Defender antivirus with the operating system until fairly recently, and now it’s expanding to offer Defender to Mac users. Yes, macOS is not the malware-free oasis it once was.

The security suite bundled with Windows is called Windows Defender, but that name wouldn’t make any sense on a Mac. Thus, it’s now called Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) on Apple’s platform. The Windows version will get the same name in an update. This announcement focuses on enterprise tools, but presumably, the consumer version will get the same re-branding.

Microsoft Defender ATP is starting as a preview that runs on macOS Mojave, macOS High Sierra, or macOS Sierra. The preview is limited to businesses, which gives you a clue as to why Microsoft is bothering to develop these tools for macOS. The preview includes access to the Mac and updated Windows versions of Defender ATP. Running the same software on both platforms could make life much easier for IT professionals. The company does note that it will use its AutoUpdate software on Macs to ensure Defender remains updated.

Like the Windows version, Macs running Defender will have the ability to intercept potential malware before it gains a foothold on the system. In the event there’s already something malicious running, Defender can remove the infection during regular scans of the system. All security alerts feedback into the ATP security suite for IT administrators to investigate.

Windows still has more security threats that macOS, but the prevalence of malware targeting Apple’s platform has increased along with its market share. We’ve seen instances of Mac malware masquerading as popular apps to trick people into downloading, and online fraudsters have even used steganography to sneak malware onto Macs. We also know macOS is not immune to major security flaws that attackers could exploit. 

Current Microsoft ATP customers can apply for access to the preview version. It’s unclear if Microsoft will make Defender ATP a consumer download on macOS. While it didn’t have a Linux announcement today, Microsoft’s demo video does seem to indicate a Linux version of Defender is on the way.

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