CAN MACS GET VIRUSES?

December 14, 2020

You may have heard that Macs are safer than Windows PC’s when it comes to cyber security.

And that is partly true.

But it doesn’t mean they’re completely safe.

In fact, the likelihood of catching a virus whilst using a Mac computer is increasing.

There are now more threats to Mac users than ever before.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Photo: Alex Bachor

CAN MAC’S GET VIRUSES?

Short answer: Yes.

For a long time, it was widely believed that Mac’s were safe from viruses. This belief was supported by the creators, Apple.

For years Apple used ‘Macs don’t get viruses’ in their marketing and on their website. It wasn’t an unsubstantiated claim.

They have historically had a smaller share of the market, making them less of a target. The integration between their software and hardware has always had the benefit of being harder to penetrate.

And since the arrival of macOS X, they have had built in security measures, particularly for preventing malware getting on to the computer. This has made it pretty hard to install something malicious onto a Mac computer.

But they don’t make the ‘we don’t get viruses’ claim anymore. Because unfortunately it’s no longer true.

Photo: Markus Spiske

THE REAL DANGER

Arguably the real danger facing Mac users is that they are unprepared.

The assumption that you are safe simply because you are using a Mac actually leaves you more vulnerable to an increasing number of threats.

As useful as the in-built security features are, they only do so much. There are ways for seasoned hackers to bypass them and they don’t block all potential threats.

As Macs have become more popular and the number of users has grown, so have the number of threats they face.

The safest option is to assume that you could be vulnerable.

Photo: T. Q.

WHAT THREATS MIGHT YOU FACE?

The threats, like with any computer user, range from simply annoying to potentially devastating.

Sometimes, something which seems as if it’s just annoying could actually be much worse.

Here’s a few examples of what you could face.

ADWARE

Adware could be any unwanted program or pop up that displays unwanted ads. Often these can lead to malicious websites that could then deliver spyware – a program which tracks activity online and steals information, used for fraud or theft.

Even a benign pop-up can be annoying and intrusive and hamper the day-to-day use of your computer.

TROJAN HORSES

Trojan horses hide a malicious software within an otherwise nonsuspicious link or download. Sometimes the malware inside the trojan horse will start operating without your knowledge, stealing personal data in the background.

They’ve been a threat to Macs for a while. There was a particularly bad one a few years ago called ‘MacDownloader’ which hid in a fake Adobe Flash update.

MACRO VIRUSES

These are sort of like a Trojan Horse and begin to work when the user clicks on an infected file, often a Word document. It then runs a code that can release new files, corrupt data, take screenshots and deliver malware.

Photo: Content Pixie

WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON?

The threats above are all based on previously recorded events and new threats are most likely to fit into those common categories.

But the threats are ever-present. Cyber criminals are always finding ways of bypassing basic levels of security and will exploit vulnerabilities in your system.

On our social media we talked about a recent threat which involves a dangerous new malware.

It’s thought to be distributed by a known Vietnamese hacking group called OceanLotus (yes, we know, it sounds like something from a James Bond movie, but it is real!)

The malware allows them to spy on machines and steal confidential info and sensitive business documents from macOS users.

As this is a known threat, the latest security patches should help to protect against it.

Photo: Howard Bouchevereau

SIGNS THAT YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING

You won’t always know if something is wrong, if you don’t have a real-time scanner installed. Some malware is designed to run quietly in the background.

However, there are a number of ways that might indicate that something is wrong.

LOTS OF ADS AND POP UPS

This may be obvious but if you’ve got unwanted ads popping up and you don’t usually (and really any irregular pop ups is out of the ordinary on a Mac) then it suggests something has arrived on your computer.

RUNNING SLOW

Your computer being slow may just be the result of lots of programs using up memory on your computer, but it could be an indication that you have a virus. If the spinning rainbow ‘wheel of death’ is constantly appearing then you may have an issue.

BROWSER ISSUES

Viruses come from the internet and are mostly designed to disrupt your online activity. If your browser is running slow, acting abnormally or crashing regularly then questions need to be asked.

Photo: Michael Aleo

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

As we mentioned above, really the first step is acknowledging that there is a threat in the first place.

Yes, Macs may still be safer, but we always think we’ll be fine until something happens.

If you’re a Mac user or your business uses Macs regularly then it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The first step should be to make sure you have a good antivirus and cybersecurity system installed on your computer, as well as the standard tools you get in macOS.

We’ve also talked about cyber security a lot in other blog posts. Check out our post on combatting Malware and cyber security tools for home working for more tips on how you can stay cyber secure, no matter what type of machine you’re using.

And if you need support or help in this area, you know where we are.

Photo: Bojan Milinkov

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