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Author Topic: Apple’s malware problem is getting worse  (Read 9 times)
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« on: February 13, 2020, 03:15:19 PM »
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Think your Apple product is safe from malware? That only people using Windows machines have to take precautions? According to the cybersecurity software company Malwarebytes’ latest State of Malware report, it’s time to think again. The amount of malware on Macs is outpacing PCs for the first time ever, and your complacency could be your worst enemy.

“People need to understand that they’re not safe just because they’re using a Mac,” Thomas Reed, Malwarebytes’ director of Mac and mobile and contributor to the report, told Recode.

Windows machines still dominate the market share and tend to have more security vulnerabilities, which has for years made them the bigger and easier target for hackers. But as Apple’s computers have grown in popularity, hackers appear to be focusing more of their attention on the versions of macOS that power them. Malwarebytes said there was a 400 percent increase in threats on Mac devices from 2018 to 2019, and found an average of 11 threats per Mac devices, which about twice the 5.8 average on Windows.

“There is a rising tide of Mac threats hitting a population that still believes that ‘Macs don’t get viruses,’” Reed said. “I still frequently encounter people who firmly believe this, and who believe that using any kind of security software is not necessary, or even harmful. This makes macOS a fertile ground for the influx of new threats, whereas it’s common knowledge that Windows PCs need security software.”

Now, this isn’t quite as bad as it may appear. First of all, as Malwarebytes notes, the increase in threats could be attributable to an increase in Mac devices running its software. That makes the per-device statistic a better barometer. In 2018, there were 4.8 threats per Mac device, which means the per-device number has more than doubled. That’s not great, but it’s not as bad as that 400 percent increase.

Also, the report says, the types of threats differ between operating systems. While Windows devices were more prone to “traditional” malware, the top 10 Mac threats were adware and what are known as “potentially unwanted programs.”

Adware typically redirects users to websites with ads on them or throws pop-up ads in front of their intended internet destination. Those may not be as “dangerous,” as the report says. They are becoming a “noticeable nuisance,” and some of them are able to track your activity, making them a privacy issue as well.

Potentially unwanted programs are apps that are often downloaded along with software you actually want or come pre-installed on your device. The most frequently detected of these came in the form of “system optimizers” that, ironically enough, often pitch themselves to Mac users as adware removers (for a price).

Even though Google is a relative newcomer in the operating system business, it has its own set of problems. Malwarebytes found malware pre-installed on some phones running its Android operating system as well as third-party apps that came infected with adware. This is a known issue with Android phones, although as we’ve pointed out before, the security of these devices isn’t always entirely in Google’s control since Android is an open-source platform.

As for Apple’s iOS platform, which is used in its mobile devices, the new Malwarebytes report noted that there is currently “no way” to scan for malware but that it is known to exist — mostly in targeted attacks by nation-states, which is not something the average user has to worry about.

What can you do about malware if you’re a Mac user? A few things.

Also, the report says, the types of threats differ between operating systems. While Windows devices were more prone to “traditional” malware, the top 10 Mac threats were adware and what are known as “potentially unwanted programs.”

Adware typically redirects users to websites with ads on them or throws pop-up ads in front of their intended internet destination. Those may not be as “dangerous,” as the report says. They are becoming a “noticeable nuisance,” and some of them are able to track your activity, making them a privacy issue as well.

Potentially unwanted programs are apps that are often downloaded along with software you actually want or come pre-installed on your device. The most frequently detected of these came in the form of “system optimizers” that, ironically enough, often pitch themselves to Mac users as adware removers (for a price).

Even though Google is a relative newcomer in the operating system business, it has its own set of problems. Malwarebytes found malware pre-installed on some phones running its Android operating system as well as third-party apps that came infected with adware. This is a known issue with Android phones, although as we’ve pointed out before, the security of these devices isn’t always entirely in Google’s control since Android is an open-source platform.

As for Apple’s iOS platform, which is used in its mobile devices, the new Malwarebytes report noted that there is currently “no way” to scan for malware but that it is known to exist — mostly in targeted attacks by nation-states, which is not something the average user has to worry about.

What can you do about malware if you’re a Mac user? A few things.

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