There are a number of options for antivirus on the Mac, but few are exclusively focused on macOS. That’s what inspired AiroAV to release its first antivirus solution for the Mac desktop in early 2019. With offices in San Diego and Tel Aviv, Airo aims to be the primary choice for Mac users looking to deal with and prevent Mac-specific malware.
So far Airo is doing very well, though the only testing house to look at Airo is AV-Test. In December 2019, AV-Test gave Airo a 100 percent rating based on its detection of widespread and prevalent malware test, which had 145 samples.
That’s a great result considering Airo rolled out its first release less than a year ago. AV-Test also ran Airo up against more than 71,000 samples of legitimate software to see if any were flagged as malware, and none were.
Since Airo is focused on the Mac its native engine doesn’t detect Windows malware. However, to prevent Airo-protected Macs from becoming “carriers” of Windows viruses, Airo uses the Bitdefender scanning engine. Bitdefender’s capabilities are used to protect against Windows malware only, and do not supplement or replace Airo’s own engine for Mac malware.
We did some quick spot checks to see how Airo handled malware from the Objective See database. In our tests, Airo had no trouble identifying and quarantining the samples we tried. The only concern we had is that in two cases Airo failed to notify us it was taking action against malicious files. It quarantined the files without issue, but the program never notified us about what it was doing.
We asked the company about these failed notifications, and a representative said this is a known issue when testing Airo’s detection capabilities. In other words, users shouldn’t expect to see this behavior in everyday situations, according to the company.
Airo doesn’t sit on the dock. Instead, it drops down from the upper right of the status menu bar. This is a good approach for apps that are continually active—many VPNs use this approach, for example. If you don’t like the drop-down menu there is an option to open Airo as a window for the current session.
At the top of the primary window is a button for a quick scan (pictured above). Below that is the last time you ran a scan, and the last time the app was updated.
Towards the bottom of the panel are icons for Threats (Airo’s history section), Settings, and Account.
Diving into the Settings section there are options for scanning files in real time, blocking adware, scareware, and suspicious files, and cloud protection. The latter is not activated by default, which is a nice touch since cloud protection often requires sharing metadata from files on your computer.
You can also turn on an option under Settings > Scanning options to scan USB drives and other devices when they’re connected to your Mac. This section also has an option to skip certain file types, if you need that. Most people shouldn’t, but creative types such as photo and video editors may appreciate it since skipping large files that are unlikely to be compromised can cut down on scan times.
Airo also offers browser extensions for Chrome and Safari. The extensions have protection against malware, adware, scareware, spyware, and “suspicious” files. Noticeably, there’s no phishing protection, and in every instance we visited a phishing site Airo did not do anything to prevent us from handing over personal information. That’s not great, but the company says it plans to add anti-phishing capabilities in the coming months.
Airo has a sliding scale for pricing depending on how many Macs you want to protect. For a single device, it costs $50 for a year. Three Macs will set you back $70 per year, and five is set at $90 per year. That’s not bad at all. Many mainstream suites charge $100 per year to cover 10 devices with their deluxe suite. That’s promotional pricing, however, and the cost goes up after your initial payment period.
Overall, the Airo app is good. It’s easy to understand, and the scan button is readily available. It’s also easy to access options for a full scan or to scan a specific folder. Scheduling is not yet available within the app. The company says this was deliberate, but after consumer feedback it plans to add scheduling in the future. We’d also like to see the ability to drag-and-drop files for scanning.
Airo has big plans for securing Apple devices. The company is working on a version of its antivirus for iOS, and it wants to bring more features to the MacOS version such as parental controls and VPNs.
As for the pricing, Airo doesn’t yet have anything deluxe about it compared to other suites, but those features are coming. In the meantime, you can rest well in the knowledge you’re supporting a good antivirus suite that is all about the Mac.