For many years, many consumers and companies have believed that macOS devices are more secure than Windows operating systems (OSs). Unfortunately, this widespread misconception simply isn’t true.
Worse, the number of new cyberthreats targeting Mac OSs are now officially on the rise. Malwarebytes’ “2020 State of Malware” report found that in 2020, malware detections against businesses with Mac operating systems increased 31%. Meanwhile malware attacks for companies using Windows operating systems actually decreased by 24%.
All of this adds up to a potentially troubling one-two punch if you’re a Mac user. Not only are you not as secure as you once thought, but you may also be facing a growing number of cyberthreats.
This article will take a closer look at Mac cybersecurity, including why the misconception of Macs being more secure from cyberthreats exists; what types of cyberattacks are now targeting Mac OSs; and what you can do to improve cyber protection for your own Mac.
Mac cybersecurity myths
For decades, macOS devices were believed to be more secure than Windows operating systems. But unfortunately, this is a common misconception that’s simply not true. The fact is, when it comes to cybersecurity, neither OS offers much of an advantage over the other.
So how did we get here? The most likely answer is that the number of cyberattacks is proportionate: there are so many more people using Windows-based computers than Macs, so cybercriminals have focused most of their activities against this segment.
You can imagine their thinking: To get the most bang from their buck, cybercriminals would be better served to target the OS with the highest number of users. Thus, for years, Windows-based computers, systems and devices have received the lion’s share of cyberattacks.
But Apple’s success and appeal has led to growing popularity for macOS devices, and in turn, more consumers, small business owners and businesses are now using Mac OSs. And as this trend continues to climb, Macs will almost certainly attract more attention from cybercriminals in the form of new threats and attacks.
Most common cyberthreats for Mac
This is actually already happening. Recently, researchers discovered a new macOS malware called GIMMICK, which is believed to be a custom tool used by a Chinese espionage threat actor known as Storm Cloud. GIMMICK is designed to be launched directly by the user or as a daemon that installs itself on a system. From there, it moves through the system and focuses particularly on Google Drive services to do the most damage there.
In addition to cyberthreats like GIMMICK, Mac users still face a number of specific and potentially dangerous cyberthreats:
· Malware: The total number of Mac users who have experienced malware attacks has greatly increased in the last few years. For example, the “Shlayer family” malware is a group of cyberthreats masquerading as Adobe Flash Player or anyone its updates. This malware is typically found on websites that distribute pirated content.
· Phishing: Similarly, phishing attacks on macOS users have significantly increased recently. For example, cybercriminals are expanding their use of phishing campaigns, both through text messages and fake webpages that look like official communications or Apple pages. These are designed to trick Mac users into sharing sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, PII data, or even their Apple ID and password.
· Browser issues: Browser security is still one of the most significant issues faced by Mac users. Browser vulnerability issues fall into three areas: the browser itself, various add-ons, and plug-ins. Not all plug-ins and add-ons are safe, and some may contain harmful malware or viruses, which can lead to identity theft, data exfiltration and financials losses.
In other words, Macs are vulnerable to the same cyberthreats we’ve witnessed with Windows and so these threats now require additional vigilance with regard to cybersecurity.
How to reduce cybersecurity risks for Mac users
So where does this leave Mac users? What can they do to reduce the risk of cyberattacks against Mac OSs?
The good news is that there are several things we can do to improve defend against Mac-specific cyberthreats:
· Apply updates: This is always a best practice for any individual or company. In the case of the GIMMIC malware example described above, users were advised to apply the available system updates ― an important step because they contain the very latest detection signatures.
· Use antivirus solutions: Having valuable antivirus software on your Mac ― such as Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office ― goes a long way to improving cyber protection. Today, the best antivirus software provides continuous monitoring, which gives users a leg up in detecting threats.
· Firewalls: You can also consider the use of firewalls to ensure your online activities are protected and not be able to be seen by bad actors.
· Be smarter about browser use: You should also always be cautious of browsers, and especially browser plug-ins and add-ons. Make sure that you and your employees never click on pop-ups or virus warnings, since many of these are scams and will open the door for cybercriminals.
· Install a virtual private network (VPN): A VPN is one of the most important security tools for internet users ― including Mac users. A VPN conceals your IP address and scrambles your online traffic, making it difficult for cybercriminals to intercept it. A VPN for Macs protects your connection and reduces the risk of a data breach.
· Enable two-factor authentication: Your Apple ID keeps the data on your Mac safe from phishers and scammers. Keep this ID safe by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA adds an extra layer of security for your Apple ID and ensures that you are the only one who can access your account ― even if someone else knows your password.
· Use the “Find my Mac” utility: If you ever lose your MacBook Pro or other Apple computer, use the “Find My Mac” utility to help you locate your Mac when it's lost or stolen ― before thieves can access sensitive data on your computer.
All of these are very useful advice and should help Mac users gain a considerable advantage over cybercriminals.
Cyberattack trend in 2022: Windows vs. Macs
Mac users may continue to do all they can to protect themselves. 2022 has already had a number of cyberthreats and exploits, including one example recently that showed that between 35–40% of Macs may be at increased risk of compromise from zero-day vulnerabilities that Apple has said are being exploited in the wild ― but for which the company has not yet issued a patch. With news like this, Mac users need the best cyber protection possible.
Protect yourself with Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. If you’re looking for a better way to protect your Mac or any computer or system using a Mac OS, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office can help. With easy-to-use backup and antivirus, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office delivers efficient, all-in-one cyber protection to help keep you secure from all cyberthreats.