The average amount of malware detected on Mac computers is now nearly double that of Windows PCs, a new report has found.
Malwarebytes, a cyber-security solutions provider, reported a massive 400 per cent increase in its rise of detected threats on Apple’s Mac platform between 2018 and 2019.
While the firm put this down to a surge in Mac customers installing its software, it said the average number of detections “per endpoint” was 11.0, nearly double the number detected on Windows (5.
The firm speculated that this was due to Apple’s increasing market share in 2019 which makes the development of malware more appealing for cyber criminals. Canalys actually reported that Apple’s market share shrunk towards the end of last year, although with a much higher average purchase price per machine, Apple users may be seen as more affluent targets for cyber criminals.
Malwarebytes blamed MacOS’ built-in security systems which “have not cracked down on adware and PUPs [potentially unwanted program] to the same degree that they have malware, leaving the door open for these borderline programs to infiltrate”.
The report found that two Mac threats – NewTab and PCVARK - showed up in second and third place in its list of the most prevalent detections across all platforms.
The number one threat found on the platform was adware called NewTab, which was detected nearly 30 million times in 2019.
NewTab is an adware family that attempts to redirect searches in the web browser for the purpose of earning illicit affiliate revenue and it is mostly delivered in the form of apps with embedded Safari extensions. It often infects machines through fake package and flight-tracking pages.
“People need to understand that they’re not safe just because they’re using a Mac,” Thomas Reed, Malwarebytes’ director of Mac and mobile, told the Recode website.
“There is a rising tide of Mac threats hitting a population that still believes that ‘Macs don’t get viruses’,” he added.
“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.”
Apple’s mobile platform iOS also has malware, the report found, although it is much harder to track, the firm said. Most malware on the platform was found to be created by nation-states such as China and spread via targeted attacks through iOS vulnerabilities.
In particular, China tried to infect phones owned by the Uyghur minority ethnic group whose poor treatment in large “re-education” camps has sparked outrage across the world.
A major exploit in the bootrom of iPhones from the 4S model up to the iPhone X was also discovered last year and cannot be patched through software updates.
Last year, a Google researcher claimed that hackers have been indiscriminately installing ‘monitoring implants’ into iPhones for years.