Google’s VirusTotal has begun running Mac apps in Sandpit environments to test for malware and malicious activity.

The move has come not a moment too soon for many Apple users. Malware, and especially adware is at an all-time high.

A report released in October by Bit9, claimed that more malware had been discovered on Apple operating systems in 2015, than had been found in the previous five years in total.

Enter VirusTotal

virustotal

VirusTotal, owned by Google, is an online virus scanner. It is popular with both everyday users, and industry professionals, and is free to use.

The VirusTotal website allows users to upload suspicious files and have them be scanned by 54 different antivirus products.

Big Names

Among the antivirus scanners utilized are some big industry names, including:

  • Avast
  • Avira
  • ESET
  • Panda
  • McAfee

Having the ability to scan any file you deem ‘dodgy’ by 54 of the world’s leading anti-malware companies is reassuring to most users. Installing that many antivirus products on any ordinary PC or Laptop would be a recipe for disaster, and not reasonably practical.

Total Peace Of Mind?

That said, while its scan results can normally be relied upon, a clean VirusTotal scan is no guarantee of 100% safety.

It is becoming more and more common these days for malware to try and outsmart anti malware scans.

Some malware variants are now programmed with the explicit intent of detecting whether or not it is being ran in a sandbox or not.

The battle is an endless cat and mouse game between virus programmers and the anti-virus researchers. Malware programmed this way may either shut down, go silent, or launch counter measures to try to remain undetected.

New Front

VirusTotal’s latest attempt is to now physically execute (run) suspicious Mac apps submitted by individual users inside a sandbox environment, in an effort to gather information that might help improve the detection and analysis of Mac Malware.

VirustTotal in action

VirustTotal in action

Wait a minute, I thought Macs didn’t get viruses?

It’s a myth. Apple devices can and do suffer from malware.

What about other platforms?

VirusTotal added the same capability for Android back in 2013, and of course, Windows based operating systems have always been covered.

VirusTotal worker, Karl Hiramoto explained in a VirusTotal blog post how the new service for Mac users worked:

“Users may scan these file types directly on www.virustotal.com, with our OS X Uploader app, or via the API.”

The Future?

Today’s current generation security services have an inherent problem. They can only keep your computer safe from threats they know about. While utilizing sandbox environments to identify malware is another step forward for users, the future may lie in the use of artificial neural networks  (ANN’s), such as Deep Instinct, that which automatically evolve to fight malware without requiring updates.

For now though, VirusTotal is probably still your best bet.