Report Reveals Thousands Of Macs Hit With 700 Percent Malware Spike

Gone are the days we thought that Apple products such as the Mac are virus-proof. A new report reveals a 700 percent spike in malware instances in Mac devices in 2016.

We’ve always been under the impression that Apple products such as the iPhone, MacBook, and iMac are virtually virus-proof. And figures for the past few years have proven that malware attacks on Apple products have been kept to the minimum. BGR, however, puts to light a new Threat Report published by McAfee Labs, which reveals a huge increase in the instances of malware in Mac devices.

According to the latest quarterly Threat Report by McAfee Labs published this month, McAfee was able to detect a total of 460,000 instances of Mac malware in 2016’s fourth quarter, which is a huge 700 percent jump from the previous year during the same quarter. That’s in comparison to the third quarter’s less than 150,000 instances and last year’s slightly over 50,000 malware instances.

If this number alarms you, you can calm yourself since as of now, using a Mac is still eons safer than Windows when you’re a virus magnet. According to McAfee’s report, these instances only comprise a small amount of the total number of virus attacks they have detected throughout the fourth quarter of 2016.

Apparently, the total number of malware McAfee was able to detect is more than 600 million instances, with the biggest being 15 million virus attacks from Android smartphones. Compared to that number, Mac malware instances drop to a very small percentage of the known cases.

Albeit small in a macro scale, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. What has been causing these huge spikes in malware attacks anyway? Well, the report notes that the large number of virus attacks on Mac is mostly due to adware bundling, which Fortune explains as “software that automatically displays online advertisements to users when they surf the web.”

Unwanted ads have become the norm in surfing the internet that’s why ad bundling has posed a bigger risk in many devices such as the Mac in the past year. But 9to5Mac reminds Mac users that as long as you stay away from downloading fishy apps and files from untrusted sources, these adware will not cause much havoc on your Mac. Only download apps from the Mac App Store and you’ll be fine.

These adware bundling instances, however, are different from alarming Mac-based virus attacks throughout 2016, where we saw ransomware take over hundreds of Mac devices, which still comprise a percentage of the threats detected in the report.

In August last year, researchers at security website We Live Security have discovered malware OSX/Keydnap, which ships with downloads of torrent client BitTorrent on the Mac. In fact, this ransomware was so alarming it was able to penetrate the official BitTorrent website. Mac ransomware such as OSX/Keydnap works just like a ransom, extorting the Mac user for money.

Even Mac devices are vulnerable to virus and ransomware [Image by Shutterstock, Inc.]
Even Mac devices are vulnerable to virus and ransomware [Image by Shutterstock, Inc.]

Another dangerous malware that was found to target Macs in 2016 was Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor, which Mac Rumors explains as an OS X/macOS malware arising from a malicious third-party app called EasyDoc Converter, which poses as a drag-and-drop file converter.

The malware basically disguises itself as a harmless third-party Mac app that converts FreeOffice (.fof) and SimpleStats (.sst) docs to Microsoft Office (.docx). Installing the said app into your Mac introduces Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor to your Mac, which lets the attacker enter and access your computer or laptop anonymously.

Backdoor programs such as Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor gives the attacker the ability to “access and modify files, execute shell commands, capture images and videos from iSight or FaceTime webcams, and more through a web-based control panel.” It’s actually pretty dangerous, this is why it’s always safer to download from the legitimate Mac store.

Never underestimate the golden rule when it comes to protecting your Mac and Apple devices from harmful threats and viruses, which is to never install fishy apps or download files from untrusted sources.

Protect your Apple devices by refraining from downloading from untrusted sources [Image by Shutterstock, Inc.]
Protect your Apple devices by refraining from downloading from untrusted sources [Image by Shutterstock, Inc.]

[Featured Image by Shutterstock, Inc.]