Mac threats outpace Windows for the first time

Ruben Fields
February 13, 2020

Malwarebytes measured the average number of threats detected per endpoint, which basically means "device" in this context.

While there seemed to be other, more technical reasons for Windows vulnerability, Macs are apparently popular enough now to warrant more attention from people who make malware.

If 2019's threat landscape tells us anything, it's that it's time to take a good hard look at Mac security and finally get serious.

"While these threats are not considered as risky as traditional malware, they are becoming a much larger and more noticeable nuisance for Mac users, who can no longer say that their beloved systems are immune from malware", Malwarebytes Labs said in its recent report.

The company said the number of threat detections per Mac was higher than it was for Windows users during 2019, with an average of 5.8 detections on Windows machines during the 12 month period.

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Aside from Mac malware, Malwarebytes said trojans-turned-botnets Emotet and Trickbot continued to "hammer" businesses across the globe, with Trickbot infections having increased by 50 per cent over 2018. There's plenty to chew on, but the most eye-catching finding is that, for the first time anyone can remember, Macs are more susceptible to malware than Windows PCs. Overall Mac threats increased by more than 400 percent, year-on-year.

The two Mac threats highlighted in the report were NewTab, a fake browser extension that loads ads instead of doing anything useful, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) from shady Mac developer PCVARK. Also, seven out of the top ten consumer threats were some sort of adware variant.

According to Malwarebytes, the Mac threats appeared at the top of its overall threat detections for the first time. NewTab was picked up by its products around 30 million times previous year, Malwarebytes said. The most common traditional Mac malware family, OSX.Generic.Suspicious was far down on the list of Mac-specific malware detections in the 30th spot.

In conclusion to Mac, the report states that only one incident involved "anything other than tricking the user into downloading and opening something they shouldn't". They often reoccur at unwelcome moments after a system has been infected. Overall, adware and PUPs are considered less risky than traditional malware.

The State of Malware report features data sets collected from product telemetry, honey pots, intelligence, and other research conducted by Malwarebytes threat analysts and reporters from January 1 through December 31, 2019.

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