Mac malware grows significantly in early 2017

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Mac-malware-Jun-17
Mac's malware rise isn't a fluke.
Photo: McAfee Labs

As the Mac user base continues to grow, so does the malware threat.

McAfee Labs’ latest quarterly Threats Report was issued this week, revealing new macOS malware rose 53 percent during early 2017.

Not too long ago, many Mac fans thought Apple’s platform was immune to malware and other malicious programs. That’s because its user base was a lot smaller, so it wasn’t much of a target for attackers. In recent years, that’s changed.

Back in April, Apple revealed that more than 100 million people are now using a Mac. Its computer sales continue to defy the overall decline in worldwide PC shipments as more and more people are drawn to MacBooks and macOS.

The rise has inevitably attracted the attention of malware creators. Over the past year, the number of attacks on macOS machines has risen exponentially.

During the first quarter of 2017, McAfee Labs identified (.pdf) almost 250,000 instances of new Mac malware — a rise of 53 percent. During the same quarter in 2015, less than 50,000 instances were identified.

The total number of recognized attacks during the three-month period surpassed 700,000 — up from less then 500,000 in Q4 2016. The sharp rise has been “boosted by a glut of adware,” says McAfee Labs.

It’s a worrisome trend that shows no signs of disappearing in the foreseeable future, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Although McAfee identified a total of 700,000 “instances” of malware during Q1 2017, that doesn’t mean it found 700,000 different pieces of malware. If it finds the same malicious program on 30,000 machines, that counts as 30,000 instances.

What’s more, the total figure is nothing compared to the Windows malware threat, where the number of instances reached almost 700 million during the same period. More than 30 million of those were considered new programs.

Apple maintains that macOS is the safer platform — and that’s probably true — but this proves that Macs are not immune to attacks.