Apple’s Mac computers might not be as safe as once considered. As per a report by Malwarebytes, developer of anti-malware software for Windows and macOS, Macs faced twice as many malware threats per endpoint compared to Windows PCs in 2019. Before you go ahead and download anti-malware software on your Mac, read on to figure out how Malwarebytes come to the conclusion.
Most of the malware threads faced by Mac users were adware. Adware is often disguised as free software like a new browser tab page or Mac tune-up software like MacKeeper and MacBooster. Once installed, adware tends to inject ads in different apps and tries to generate revenue. Adware was the number one threat for all platforms in 2019, but for Mac, it showed a significant increase compared to Windows.
Malwarebytes says that it saw an increase of 400 percent more Mac threats in 2019. The number of threats increased from 4.8 per endpoint in 2018, to 11.0 per endpoint in 2019. However, Malwarebytes also attributes the increase in number of threats to an increase in the number of Macs that used Malwarebytes in 2019, allowing for a significantly higher number of data points for its report.
We saw a significant rise in the overall prevalence of Mac threats in 2019, with an increase of over 400 percent from 2018. However, since you could argue—validly—that part of this was due to a corresponding increase in the total number of Mac endpoints running Malwarebytes software, it’s more interesting to look at the change in the number of detections per endpoint. Mac detections per endpoint increased from 4.8 in 2018 to a whopping 11.0 in 2019, a figure that is nearly double the same statistic for Windows.
Overall, there were approximately 24 million adware detections in Windows and 30 million adware detections on Mac. While this could be due to an increase in market share for Macs in 2019, it is an alarmingly high number and could point to weaknesses in macOS' security protections, as per the report.
This means that the average number of threats detected on a Mac is not only on the rise, but has surpassed Windows—by a great deal. This is likely because, with increasing market share in 2019, Macs became more attractive targets to cybercriminals. In addition, macOS’ built-in security systems have not cracked down on adware and PUPs to the same degree that they have malware, leaving the door open for these borderline programs to infiltrate.
The top adware in the detection list was NewTab, which is often disguised as free utility software. Once installed, it redirects searches in Safari to generate revenue from ad views.
Further, for the first time ever, Mac threats appeared at the top of Malwarebytes’ overall threat detections. Two Mac threats—NewTab and PCVARK—showed up in second and third place in our list of the most prevalent detections across all platforms.
Take this report with a grain of salt. The data is based on computers which have Malwarebytes installed, so the actual threat levels might be different. Despite that, Apple needs to step up its adware detection in macOS and scan Safari downloads before users can open them. Until then, if you use a Mac, try not to download and install any software from untrusted sources. If you are not tech savvy, it might be beneficial to install an anti-malware tool like Malwarebytes to stay safe.