17 March 2020
PC vs. Mac wars go back a long time. Most of us know the story. Apple was briefly the king of the personal computer. But back in the 1980s, a series of poor business moves followed. Microsoft took the chance to position itself as a dominant operating system player.
Even in the smartphone era, Windows continues to be the dominant computer operating system. But the rise of the iPhone has also seen a growth in the popularity of macOS. One of the most significant claims has always been that macOS is more secure than Windows. While that may have been true in the past, once again, things have turned in Microsoft's favor.
macOS is under attack by a massive number of cyber threats. Worse yet, most Mac users lack security tools, so they are not prepared for them.
But you can prepare. Discover the latest threats to the Mac operating system and what you can do to safeguard your device.
The truth is, nothing has happened out of the blue. Macs have always been vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The only difference was that hackers were less motivated to target macOS. After all, they were such a tiny part of the PC market.
Cyber-attacks usually operate on a mass scale to catch vulnerable targets. It makes more sense to create attacks that can affect the operating system used by 77% of people compared to 13% for MacOS.
Yet, it's also counter-intuitive. Windows PCs have so often fallen victim to malware and viruses. So they have much better built-in and external software tools to both prevent hacks. They are also better at recognizing suspicious files as well as social engineering attacks. Most Mac users haven’t needed to do any of these things.
The latest findings from Malwarebytes back this up too. In their 2020 State of Malware Report, they discovered that the number of Mac threats increased by over 400% compared to the year before. And compared to Windows, twice more attacks targeted Macs.
Browser-based attacks were one of the main culprits. But digging deeper into the report, you can find that the majority of these assaults involved social engineering. It tricked users into downloading malware.
And it's not only the macOS that suffers from this vulnerability but iOS too. There's been a significant increase in iOS-based attacks that escape detection by Apple.
Now's the time to start getting serious about Mac security. And to avoid potential threats, you need to recognize and understand them first.
macOS is vulnerable to Trojans, adware, pups, ransomware, along with social engineering attacks. Here are what security experts consider the top threats to Macs:
Trojans are the most annoying. Unlike creative worms or viruses, you've given trojan permission to set up shop and do damage to your computer.
Symantec researchers detected one nasty example of this in 2018 — OS.X Calisto Trojan. After the OS.X Calisto Trojan infected computers, it could take screenshots and harvest information, including passwords and files.
Worse yet, the attackers deployed Trojan remotely, and it remained in a system for years before detection.
The types of threats Mac users face are often quite different from PC users. Windows machines often have traditional malware like keyloggers to deal with. The most common Mac threats are adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
NewTab is frustrating adware that redirects browsers to earn affiliate revenue. You can find it in fake maps, package or flight tracking web apps, and other sites. These threats may not sound severe, but they are growing in volume. And they keep on getting more aggressive.
Advanced Mac Cleaner is the best example of this. This app creates false alerts and invented threats on your computer. It then tricks users into downloading adware and other annoying bloatware.
Adware and browser hijackers are the two types of attacks that have grown the most in number in recent years. Browser hijackers take control over both Safari and Chrome. They route your browser to visit scam search engine sites.
Then you can get tricked into visiting sites with tons of sponsored content that earns cash for the fraudsters. For one, these attacks are annoying. But what’s even worse, they result in unwanted modifications to your browser settings. It can increase the risk of a data breach.
All Mac users need to know this threat. The "Apple wants to make changes" is a web pop-up that tricks users into believing your computer is sending you a system notification. Users are then prompted to enter login credentials.
This way, fraudsters harvest usernames and passwords to access the information stored on Mac. They can also make system changes or access the iCloud keychain.
For many Mac users, the idea of converting to Windows is abhorrent. They'd rather suffer the risk of viruses than ever make that terrible decision.
And it's not time to make that switch anyway. Windows computers face as much risk as ever from their own cyber-attacks. But it is time for Mac users to wake up and start taking security seriously.
Most attacks target files and sensitive information. So, to begin with, start using encryption software for Mac. Apple does have a built-in FileVault to encrypt data on the startup disk. It is a good start, but you should combine it with other file encryption tools. Since browsers are also susceptible to hackers, it's essential to encrypt all files before uploading them to the cloud.
Mac users can use encryption in other ways too. VPNs encrypt internet connections, keeping fraudsters blind to your internet activity. Finally, look into the different browser and system-based security tools to further enhance security. That includes security add-ons, antimalware software, firewall, ad blockers, and more.
No matter what operating system you use, cyber-attacks can happen. Prepare yourself with these tips to prevent hackers from making you their next victim.
Author bio: Harold is a cybersecurity consultant and a freelance blogger. His main interest is cybersecurity and the main goal is to raise awareness around the threats that people and businesses can face online.
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