Reader question: The program cannot be opened because Apple cannot search for malware

Cannot open app - Mac error

If you don't download every app from the official Apple app store onto your Mac, you will eventually stumble into an error message that prevents you from opening a program or running an installer. This is what happened to a reader who got this message here:

"XYZ.app." Cannot be opened because Apple cannot search for malware in it. This software needs to be updated. Contact the developer.

The problem with this is that Apple not only throws a warning here, but actively prevents you from opening the program.

Error: "Example.app" cannot be opened because Apple cannot search for malware in it. This software needs to be updated. Contact the developer.
Error: Can't open example.app because Apple can't scan it for malware. This software needs to be updated. Contact the developer.

Solution: Call up security settings

To solve the problem, it does not help to deactivate the gatekeeper or to change the security settings so that you can also install apps that are not from the App Store but from a certified developer.

Instead, you have to go under System Preferences> Security look at the bottom right. There should be a notice that the "XYZ" app has been blocked. In addition, there should be the “Allow anyway” button, which you click to save an exception in the security settings for this app.

Here you can see the button in an English macOS. Unfortunately, I did not have the error message available myself and had to use a screenshot from the Apple support page.
Here you can see the button in an English macOS. Unfortunately, I did not have the error message available myself and had to use a screenshot from the Apple support page.

Apple cannot check the app for malware

Of course, you can also find it in the Apple support pages a reference to this error message.

Using an app that cannot be scanned for malware could harm your Mac or violate your privacy. If you're sure the app you're using is from a trusted source, you can override Mac security settings to open the app. For more information, see the Apple Support article Open apps on Mac safely.

And there's even a link to one quite extensive information collectionthat explains how to securely open apps on your Mac. However, the help page is relatively extensive and contains numerous tips that do not help in the current case. For this reason I wanted to write this post here to save you unnecessary search.

Reader Tip: Reset the Mac Date

A reader wrote to me that this error message can sometimes be bypassed by changing the Mac's date. I assume you also have to separate the WLAN and LAN, otherwise the Mac will set the time automatically via a time server.

Unfortunately, the reader did not write when you have to change the date, but I think you should test it with a few years in the past.

My tips & tricks about technology & Apple

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4 Responses to "Reader question: Can't open program because Apple can't scan for malware"

  1. Hi Jens,

    I'm referring to this tip that didn't work:

    “Instead, look under System Preferences > Security at the bottom right. There should be a note that the app "XYZ" has been blocked. Next to it should be the "Allow anyway" button, which you click to add an exception to the security settings for this app."

    I don't see any indication that an app has been blocked.
    what can I do now?

    Thanks in advance, LG Walter

    1. Hello Walter! Yes, the instructions are only correct up to macOS Monterey. Starting with macOS Ventura, the system settings look completely different. For me, it's always been the case that apps that tried to do something that the system was blocking would leave a message in the top-right corner of Notification Center. Maybe uninstalling and reinstalling the program will help. Then the system dialog should hopefully appear.

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