When it comes to security, Macs aren’t invulnerable. Sure, Windows is easier to hack, but there’s still money to be made targeting macOS. Antivirus protection for your Mac is a must. More than just an antivirus, Avast One for Mac includes integrated VPN protection, protection against browser fingerprinting, data breach monitoring, and more. Depending on your needs, it can be a worthwhile upgrade from the free Avast One Essential for Mac.
A New Security Product Line
The Avast One product line releases initially in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. All of Avast’s existing products remain available for download or purchase. However, the Avast One product line is clearly the wave of the future, and it’s definitely more feature-rich than Avast Premium Security for Mac.
There’s no visible connection between the release of this new product line and the pending merger of Avast with NortonLifeLock. Do note that once that merger is complete, Norton will own Avast, Avira, AVG, and BullGuard.
How Much Does Avast One Cost?
Quite a few Mac antivirus products, like their Windows cousins, cost just under $40 per year. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, Trend Micro, and Webroot are examples. You pay $59.99 for Kaspersky, Sophos, or McAfee, but that price gets you three, 10, and unlimited licenses respectively. At first glance, Avast One’s price of $99.99 per year for five licenses might seem expensive.
Note, though, that Clario and Intego charge the same for just three licenses. Avast One isn’t just an antivirus. Your subscription gets you a broad range of protection including five no-limits VPN licenses. With Norton, which costs $5 more, you also get five full VPN licenses, as well as 50GB of storage for your (Windows) backups. Avast One’s pricing is in line with comparable products.
To install Avast One you’ll need a Mac running macOS 10.13 (High Sierra). Most Mac owners keep the OS up to date, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Others need an even newer OS version. Kaspersky wants 10.14 (Mojave), and Avira requires 10.15 (Catalina). At the other end of the spectrum, a few antivirus tools still support ancient macOS versions for those who can’t (or won’t) upgrade. Intego works on 10.9 (Mavericks) or higher, while ProtectWorks goes all the way back to 10.8 (Mountain Lion).
New Attractive Interface
Where Avast’s previous products for Windows used a dark gray background, the macOS products went for a rich purple. Both those dark themes are gone in Avast One. The user interface is very similar across all platforms, with light-colored background, rounded buttons, and a pleasant, airy feel.
Everywhere you look there are line drawings, enlivened with daubs of pastel colors. Many of the drawings include happy people, clearly pleased to have Avast’s protection. It’s a very different look.
Features Shared With Free Version
Naturally, users of this tool get all the features found in Avast One Essential for Mac, plus more. But paying doesn’t get you much more on a Mac. If you’re strictly and only protecting Macs, you probably should stick with the free product.
Antivirus protection is the same, naturally, and the labs give it excellent marks. AV-Test Institute awards it six points each for Performance and Usability and 5.5 for Performance. That total of 17.5 points, just shy of a perfect 18, is enough to get it named Top Product. Bitdefender also scores 17.5 with this lab, while Norton and Trend Micro reach a perfect 18.
Tested by AV-Comparatives, Avast achieved 100% protection against macOS-centric malware and against Windows malware. In a test using lower-risk PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications), Avast detects 99%, tying with Bitdefender for the top score. While no product achieves total perfection in every test, Avast and Bitdefender come very close.
Avast’s comprehensive Deep Scan finished in 21 minutes, beating the current average of 27 minutes. When I scanned a thumb drive containing my current Windows malware samples, it identified 85% of them as dangerous. Yes, Windows malware can’t infect a Mac, but the Mac could serve to pass along those threats over the network.
Ransomware protection works just as it does on Windows. By default, it protects a wide variety of important file types in your Documents and Pictures folders. Naturally, you can add file types or folders for extended protection. When an unauthorized program tries to access a protected file, Avast warns you and asks whether to allow it. If you’re testing a new, legitimate program, go ahead and trust it. But if the warning comes as a surprise, smack that Block button.
Avast’s Web Shield component works below the browser level, preventing your browsers from opening dangerous or fraudulent websites. Phishing frauds can be a real danger, because they trick inattentive users into giving away important security credentials. When Avast detects a problem page, it diverts the browser to display a warning and also pops up a notification.
In my hands-on phishing protection test, Avast detects 99% of the very new real-world samples, just as its Windows version did. It scores significantly better than the phishing protection built into popular browsers. Looking strictly at Mac products, Avast’s 99% puts it in a tie with Bitdefender. Only Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus for Mac, with 100%, has recently scored higher.
Clicking Explore in the simple menu at left brings up a list of available features. In the free Avast One Essential, lock icons denote premium-only features. That includes all the Smooth Performance features, Web Hijack Guard under Device Protection, and the Tracking Prevention feature that keeps websites from fingerprinting your browser.
Even nonpaying users get access to Data Breach Monitoring, Clear Browsing Data, and a limited version of the VPN, which I’ll discuss below. Clear Browsing Data simply wipes traces of your online activity from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, something you could easily do right in the browser. Free users can check email addresses to see if they’ve appeared in data breaches, but they don’t get real-time breach monitoring.
Data Breach Monitoring
As noted, even users of this product’s free edition can submit any email address to find out whether it has appeared in any known data breaches. Upgrading to the premium edition lets you submit one or more addresses for real-time monitoring. If a new breach contains one of your addresses, you’ll get a notification, and an opportunity to go change any breached passwords.
Avast automatically monitors the email address associated with your account. To add another email, you must prove that it’s yours by responding to a verification message. Once you’ve completed that step, Avast starts monitoring the account. If the email you just added was found in existing, known breaches, it naturally displays those.
VPN Without Limits
Avast’s deep scan roots out any malware infestations on your macOS devices, and the File Shield real-time antivirus fends off new attacks. Data on your Mac should be safe with this protection in place. However, no antivirus can protect your data once it leaves the local computer. To protect your data as it traverses the internet, you need a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.
The VPN creates a secure encrypted connection between your device and a secure server managed by the VPN company. No snoop or hacker, not even the owner of the Wi-Fi network you’ve logged into, can access your data in transit. The VPN server passes your traffic to whatever site you selected and sends the responses back to you through the same encrypted connection. As a privacy bonus, your network traffic seems to come from the VPN server. That means that a site can’t determine your location based on your IP address. It can also get you access to location-locked content, by making it seem you’re in a different location.
Avast’s free edition includes integrated VPN protection, but with limits. You don’t get a choice of servers or server locations—you must use whatever the system chooses. And you can only protect 5GB of bandwidth per week. To be fair, that’s more generous than many free VPNs. The free edition of Hotspot Shield VPN allows 500MB per day, a little less than Avast. With TunnelBear VPN, non-paying users get vastly less, 500MB per month. On the other hand, you can use ProtonVPN for free with no limits on bandwidth.
With Avast One, the VPN is integrated, not a separate product, but the technology is the same. You choose your country and, when available, location within that country. You turn on the VPN to protect your web traffic. And that’s all you really need to do.
The VPN reminds you to turn on protection when you connect to an untrusted network. Since your bandwidth isn’t capped, you may want to just have it connect automatically. I don’t advise turning off the untrusted network warning, though Avast does let you.
That’s it for VPN configuration options. You won’t find split-tunneling (the ability to send less-sensitive traffic outside the VPN’s protection) like you get with CyberGhost VPN or SurfShark VPN. There’s no option for the added security of a multi-hop VPN connection. You can’t get a static IP address (useful for evading services that try to block VPN usage). Some VPNs include a kill switch, meaning they cut all connectivity if the VPN connection goes down. Not Avast, though.
Norton 360 Deluxe also includes full-scale VPN protection, and we rate Norton’s VPN three stars as a standalone, just like Avast’s. Yes, if you’re a VPN enthusiast you can do better with a standalone product. But having a VPN integrated with your security suite is a big plus.
Simplified Tracking Prevention
When your browser sends a query to a website, the website returns the requested information and then forgets all about you. For ongoing interaction, a site can place a cookie on your computer, a small text file that serves as its memory. What are your preferences? Did you log in? Things like that.
Cookies have been misused by advertisers and others who want to track your online activities. And privacy-centered organizations (including some browser purveyors) have worked out ways to defeat cookie-based tracking. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac and various other security products build in the ability to block such trackers.
Blocking cookie-based tracking has proven successful enough that trackers now rely on a technique called browser fingerprinting. Briefly, the tracking agency gathers a vast amount of data that your browser freely offers and boils it down to a digital fingerprint that uniquely identifies you.
Avast offers a standalone program called Avast AntiTrack designed to foil the fingerprinters. It tweaks the data returned by your browser so that your fingerprint is always changing. In addition, it prevents cookie-based tracking, clears browser traces of online activity, and helps tune Windows for maximum privacy.
The premium-only Tracking Prevention feature in Avast One sticks to blocking fingerprinting techniques. There are no settings, and it’s turned on by default. While Avast AntiTrack supports Windows, macOS, and Android, only the macOS edition of Avast One includes Tracking Prevention.
Enhancing system performance doesn’t directly bear on security, but everybody wants a fast computer. Installed on a Mac, Avast One offers three components categorized under Smooth Performance: Disk Cleaner, App Uninstaller, and Photo Cleaner.
Like the corresponding feature in the Windows edition, Disk Cleaner scans the system for junk files, files that can be deleted to free up disk space. On my test system, the speedy scan found application cache files, files residing in the trash, log files, and downloaded files that probably aren’t needed anymore.
None of the found items are checked for deletion by default. You can check off entire categories or dig in for details on a file-by-file basis. I chose to delete all the found junk and thereby freed up 1.33GB of disk space. On completion, the cleanup scan reports its success in terms of how you can use that freed space, for example, “442 pictures, 1 hour of video, 331 songs.
The App Uninstaller takes a different approach to freeing up disk space. It scans your Mac for installed third-party apps and lists them with their size and the date you last used them. You can also filter the list to just see little-used apps, or just jumbo-sized ones. At your command, Avast uninstalls selected apps, including “all the system files that are usually left over.” Removing one big app and one less-used one gained me another 1.31GB of disk space.
Do you collect endless photos on your Mac? I’m not sure how much of a problem this is, given that most users would snap photos with an iPhone and store them in the cloud. But if you do have a ton of photos, the Photo Cleaner can help you weed out too-similar ones, or just plain bad photos.
I don’t normally keep personal photos on my test Mac, so for testing I copied over several hundred from another device. The speedy scan found four images it deemed bad. More interestingly, it came up with 20 sets of similar images. Some were actual dupes, some were the original of an image alongside an edited version, and one pair was even upside down from each other. But it also made some odd bloopers. For example, it paired a photo of my wife holding her grandniece with a cartoon drawing of Buddhist monks. Before removing any alleged duplicates, be sure to closely review the scan’s findings.
No Wi-Fi Inspector
In Avast’s previous product lineup, one feature that paying Mac users gained was an enhanced Wi-Fi Inspector tool. This tool would scan the local network, list all the found devices, and flag any with security problems. In addition, you could configure it to alert you any time a new device connected.
That handy feature is not present in Avast One, on any platform. My contacts at Avast confirmed its absence.
Some Worthwhile Premium Features
You get several significant benefits by upgrading your Mac’s Avast One installation from free to paid. Just for starters, upgrading gives you full access to all VPN features and servers, with no limit on bandwidth. Tracking Prevention, not present on other platforms, blocks browser fingerprinters, which is the core function of the standalone Avast AntiTrack. At $34.95 per year for AntiTrack and almost $60 per year for the standalone VPN, you would have paid almost the full price of Avast One.
Avast One goes beyond basic antivirus, but some competitors reach even farther into the suite realm. Norton 360 Deluxe for Mac also includes a no-limits VPN, as well as a broad collection of features. The VPN included with Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is limited, but the app’s protection is excellent, and AutoPilot mode means you can just let it run in the background. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac is a full-on suite, with network protection, parental control, and a host of bonus features. These three are our Editors’ Choice winners in the macOS antivirus realm.