I only restarted using Macs in early 2021 after a 15+ year hiatus. So I’m likely quite a bit less Mac fluent than others posting. With that said, I don’t use any protection. So far so good. Now about two weeks ago I did get a repeated Safari Banner pop up saying I’ve got 3 infections. Yea, good one. I killed Safari (I exclusively and only use Safari) and restarted (don’t restore sessions). Problem was gone. Though for anyone who clicked the banner to presumably take you to a webpage that looks ‘Virus Now Scanning” official, maybe they’d now need protection.
I also only use apps from the Mac App Store, presumably that helps. But I do visit websites that are probably not going to be, ahem, the most malware free