Macs have always enjoyed a reputation as being virus-free. Apple’s famous “I’m a Mac” adverts played on it, comparing the constant security fears on Windows to the ease and safety of its OS X (now called MacOS) operating system.
But that’s no longer the case.
The number of cases of malware targeting Macs is continuing to surge, growing by 53% over just the first quarter of 2017, according to an analysis from security firm McAfee. And throughout 2016, it grew by a massive 744%.
In Q1 2017, the security firm detected more than 700,000 instances of malware on Macs. (That means it found nearly three-quarters of a million infections — not three-quarters of a million different types of malware.)
The reason for this huge and continued growth is adware bundling, McAfee says.
In other words, people are installing apps that come bundled with dodgy software (“adware”) that sticks ads on their computer. It’s invasive, but it’s not necessarily as catastrophic as other types of malware — like ransomware, which encrypts your data and forces you to pay a ransom to get it back (though multiple kinds can come bundled together, of course).
Here’s a second graph, showing new MacOS malware. Less was discovered in Q1 2017 than in Q4 2016 — but it’s still far more than any earlier quarter.
Apple offers an App Store on desktop, much like it does on iOS. By only using apps from there or trusted sources, users can mitigate their chances of getting hit. Use common sense, don’t install apps from shady sources or unknown developers, and be careful what else it asks to install during the install process.
And remember: The growth in Mac malware, while alarming, is still nothing compared to the amount of malware for Windows that McAfee identified.
Nearly 700 million malware instances were found overall by McAfee — with the vast majority of these coming from Windows. The Mac malware is still a drop in the ocean in comparison.