Is My Mac Secure from Malware and Viruses?

Do you own a Mac? If so, you might have the common perception that they’re more secure from internet threats than Windows PCs. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The truth is that Macs have historically not been targeted by hackers as frequently as Windows systems, simply because there were fewer to attack, so it didn’t make financial sense for the bad guys.

But this is changing: as Macs become more popular, cyber-criminals are increasingly turning their attention towards the platform. That’s bad news for Mac owners.

According to some estimates, Mac-specific malware soared 270% in 2017 over the prior year. Threats are still not as widespread as on Windows PCs, but you only need to get hit once and it could have a serious impact: leading to the loss of precious files and pictures, identity theft, or even locking you out of your machine altogether.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this blog, briefing you on things you need to know: where some of the main risks are for Mac owners, and how you can keep your machine and data safe from harm with Trend Micro.

A helping hand

Fortunately, there are some built-in protections to help keep your Mac safe from internet threats. For one, its operating system is based on the Unix platform, which is more secure by design than Windows. However, no OS is completely impervious to vulnerabilities and threats. That’s why Apple has added a few features to improve security. These include:

XProtect: A built-in malware scanning tool that works in the background. If you try to open a file – for example, by opening an email attachment from an unrecognised sender, or downloading an app – it will check the file against a blacklist of known malware and flag anything suspicious. The tool requires no user interaction to work; it’s on by default and shouldn’t slow your Mac down.

However, its list of malware is not exhaustive, and there are many threats in the wild which have never been seen before, and so could bypass this filter. Its effectiveness could also suffer if you don’t keep it up-to-date by upgrading to the latest macOS version.

Gatekeeper: This is a built-in tool that prevents users from downloading unapproved Mac apps. When you’re on the official Mac App Store this isn’t an issue, of course. But if you’re on a third-party marketplace, there could be malware-laden applications masquerading as legitimate software. If the app hasn’t been digitally signed and approved by Apple, Gatekeeper will alert the user. Your Mac’s password protection helps here too, for gatekeeping purchases and free downloads.

Sandboxing: Approved macOS apps also contain a “sandboxing” feature which ensures they’re isolated from the critical parts of your machine. This provides further security in case they are hijacked by attackers.

Anti-phishing: Phishing attacks are commonplace today. They often aim to trick the recipient of an email into clicking on a malicious link or will take you to a specially crafted site where they ask for log-ins, financial and other personal data. The site could also download ransomware, to lock your files or Mac, until you pay the price. Apple’s Safari browser has built-in anti-phishing technology to spot some of these sites.

Plug-ins: Certain third-party technology platforms can also introduce extra risk to Mac users. That’s why macOS is designed to block plug-ins such as Adobe Flash Player, Silverlight, QuickTime and Oracle Java if they aren’t updated to the latest, most secure version.

FileVault 2: This feature offers full disk encryption to keep your data protected in the event that a hacker tries to access the information on your machine.

MacOS threats on the rise

However, despite these protections, the bad guys are getting more determined and advanced in how they target macOS users. There was an estimated 29% increase in vulnerabilities on the platform reported in 2017, while Mac malware samples have skyrocketed (see the chart below). Hackers are adept at exploiting software flaws to spread malware which could steal your data, snoop on your internet browsing, flood your screen with annoying ads, and, as ransomware, even lock you out of your machine completely.

Reports also suggest US users are more affected by macOS malware than any others. A quarter of all global threats affecting the platform are aimed at them.

Here are just a few recent threats affecting Mac users:

Meltdown/Spectre: Billed as one of the most serious cyber-threats in recent memory, these processor flaws could allow sophisticated hackers to read your Mac’s memory. The result? Although there are no reports of these vulnerabilities being exploited as yet, the potential is there for attackers to steal any data that has been stored on your machine.

Word macro viruses: For a long time confined to the PC space, these threats also affect Mac users. Macro programs embedded into Word and other documents can contain malware. If they’ve been enabled to automatically run this could land you in trouble, downloading info-stealing malware, ransomware and more.

Fruitfly: Discovered in 2017, it’s thought the Fruitfly malware could have been circulating for as many as 13 years. It’s designed to capture screenshots and webcam images and infect other devices on the same network. Dubbed “creepware,” it’s thought the program lifted millions of images from infected computers.

OSX/Ransom: Again discovered in 2017, OSX/Ransom-A (popularly known as MacRansom), the ransomware follows the now-familiar pattern of encrypting your files, then threatens you with the message that if you don’t pay the ransom within 7 days, even the cybercriminals who created the malware won’t be able to decrypt your files.

OSX/MaMi: One of the first threats of 2018, OSX/MaMi is designed to route your internet traffic through malicious servers, where the attackers can steal your log-ins and other sensitive information.

MacDownloader: This malware was first discovered hidden in a fake Adobe Flash update. If a user clicks through they’ll be told there’s adware on their machine and asked for their Mac password. Divulging it will allow the hackers to steal your usernames, passwords, PINs, credit card numbers and more.

Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac

The good news is that there are third-party tools available to help you enhance the built-in security of your Mac to boost protection against these rising threat levels. The truth is that while Apple does a good job of providing as much protection as it can, security is just one of the things that Apple’s focused on. Security vendors like Trend Micro are laser-focused on one thing only: threat protection for users and businesses. Trend Micro works around the clock to develop advanced protection, not just against current threats but also to reduce the risks posed by previously unseen web and social network threats, phishing emails, and ransomware.

Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac is just such a tool. Leveraging our industry-leading Smart Protection Network and the latest machine learning technology, it’s designed to keep scams out of your inbox, block malware, prevent you from visiting dangerous sites and much more.

The Folder Shield feature in Antivirus for Mac provides enhanced protection against ransomware. This tool adds an extra layer of defence by blocking the malware from trying to access and encrypt your most important files.

Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac also protects you against the growing threat of malware on social networks and for cloud sync/backup. And there are Parental Controls to help you keep your family protected online and to make your Mac more child-friendly.

Independent lab tests also prove that Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac gives you 100% protection against threats, without sacrificing system performance. See the January 2018 AV-TEST report Put to the Test: Antivirus Solutions for MacOS Sierra for the evidence.

For more information, go to Antivirus Protection for Mac OS, where you can also purchase the product or download a free 30-day trial.

Read the latest Macworld Magazine Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac Review, part of its best antivirus roundup, where it received 4 stars.

This article was originally published on the Trend Micro Security News, Views and Opinions blog site.

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