Mac versus PC, Apple versus Android. It’s a war that’s born a thousand memes, hundreds of advertising campaigns, and billions of search queries. In the security game, Apple have always had reasonable cause to be a little smug - its operating systems have traditionally been perceived as a haven from online attacks.
But in the last few years things have changed.
Apple is known for running a tight ship when it comes to allowing apps or tools into its ecosystem. This is often enough to discourage attackers, many of whom are designing attacks for easy wins. Criminals also often tend to go after the most frequently used operating systems, such as Windows and Android, in order to reach the largest number of victims. Protected by a lack of motivation, and iOS’s highly curated app ecosystem, Apple users have long considered themselves safe.
But malware affecting Apple users is on the rise - our research shows a steady increase in malware being detected throughout the course of last year. In fact, detections had tripled by November 2016 when compared to the start of that year. Contrary to popular belief, Apple users aren’t immune to malicious attacks.
Some people will still remember the menacing Flashback trojan from a few years ago that tricked users into installing rogue software that went on to steal their password information. Although it’s still seen as one of the biggest and most sophisticated of malware attacks on the Mac OS, cybercriminals are still plotting new threats.
For example, last year, KeRanger became widely known as the first ransomware to target the OSX operating system that powers Apple’s line of computers. Again, illegitimate software was to blame here. But this time, they demanded cash from their victims. Once installed, the ransomware scrambled the user’s personal files and then demanded a payment of over £300 to release them.
Does our research suggest that attackers are increasingly targeting Macs? Not necessarily. When we drill deeper into the data, we see that email campaigns are the major culprits, and such junk email can be successful in delivering malware across a full range of devices. The key takeaway is this: no matter what side of the Mac versus PC or iOS versus Android debate you fall on, you can unfortunately become a victim of cybercrime. That’s because – ultimately - people are the weak link in any line of defence, regardless of what operating system you use. It’s important to practice better security in all cases.
How to protect against Mac malware, including viruses and ransomware
Mac malware makes up a very small proportion of all malware, but a cautious approach, nonetheless, goes a long way.
Here are a few tips.
- Think before you click: There’s been a rise in the number of Mac users being caught out by malware being spread by email, including malicious links and attachments. Never view, open, or copy email attachments or links unless you trust the sender.
- Stay up to date: Zero-day vulnerabilities are usually patched quickly. Keep your operating system and all your software and applications up-to-date to ensure you have the protection against the latest threats emerging.
- Protect yourself: Secure your Mac in the same way you would a PC. Use a robust and trusted internet security solution that includes antivirus, firewalls, browser protection and proven protection from online threats.