It’s generally accepted that Mac computers are much safer than their Windows counterparts. Since there are fewer people using Apple’s desktop operating system, there is less incentive for cybercriminals to spend their time developing malware and other threats, compared to Windows PCs.
But that’s rapidly changing, according to new research. A new report from antivirus software Malwarebytes claims Mac-specific threats outpaced PCs by a rate of 2:1 throughout 2019.
The startling figure was one of the key findings in Malwarebytes’ annual State Of Malware Report. According to the document, the volume of threats targeting laptops and desktops running macOS increased year-over-year by more than 400 percent.
Some of that increase can be attributed to the fact the number of macOS users increased last year, therefore it tallies that the volume of threats rose as well to meet the, erm, demand.
In 2019, the anti-virus company detected an average of 11 threats per Mac endpoint worldwide, compared with 5.8 threats per Windows PC endpoint. In comparison, Mac endpoint threats were at 4.8 in 2018.
So, what has caused such a spike? Well, Malwarebytes says the rise is likely due to the increased marketshare enjoyed by the Mac these days. As more people use Apple computers – most likely pushed to the platform because of their familiarity with iOS or iPadOS – they become a lot more attractive to bad actors looking to steal your payment details, files, or other sensitive information.
Apple MacBook Pro (2019) 16-inch review
In its report, Malwarebytes notes that macOS’s built-in security has yet to sufficiently tackle adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), with its focus currently more on traditional malware. The researchers found Mac threats typically differ from those faced by PCs. While most Windows machines face traditional types of malware, the most prevalent threats to macOS are adware and PUPs.
The latter mostly consists of “cleaning” apps, like MacBooster. As for adware, NewTab is one highlighted by Malwarebytes.
NewTab is an adware family that redirects your web browser searches to earn affiliate revenue behind you back without your permission. It’s often spread via fake flight or package tracking pages, fake maps, as well as false directions. There is some positive news for Mac owners – adware and PUPs are considered less dangerous than traditional malware.
Adware is also a problem for Windows as well, with some 24 million incidents found, the report states. That’s an increase of around 13 per cent for consumers, and a breathtaking 463 per cent increase for businesses.
According to Malwarebytes, seven of the top ten consumer threats of the last year were sort of adware species. The important takeaway is that smug Mac owners should probably start taking virus-protection a little more seriously.
You’ll want to make sure you’re only downloading from trusted sources, only installing apps from legitimate developers with a good track record and, failing that, at least some positive reviews from strangers.