Can we finally put to rest the myth that Apple products are immune to malware and other security threats?
Many security incidents over the past few years should have eliminated the Apple security myth, as well as raising concern over the company’s slow response to fixing vulnerabilities. But this weekend came news that should raise concern for any person or business using a Mac. Ransomware specifically targeting the Mac OS has been found in the wild. As CNET reported:
The problem was first detected Friday, when a team of researchers at Palo Alto Networks found a popular BitTorrent client for Apple's OS X software for Macs that was infected with the ransomware, which they have dubbed "KeRanger." The BitTorrent software in question is Transmission, which Mac users can install on Apple's OS X operating system and then use to access shared files in so-called torrent swarms (which, let's not lie, is usually pirated content).
Malware and ransomware has targeted the Mac operating system in the past, but experts claim this is different. Past discoveries of Mac ransomware was considered incomplete, but KeRanger is 100 percent functional and able to do serious damage.
Experts are also saying that the time has finally come for us to expect more malware written specifically for Apple-based operating systems, particularly against Mac’s OS, for the very reason that, in the past, Macs were always safer than Windows. As Tim Erlin, director of IT Security and Risk Management for Tripwire, explained to me in an email this morning:
The malware marketplace is ultimately driven by the population of targets, and Windows outpaces Apple by a wide margin in terms of deployed systems. It may have taken a little longer for ransomware to come to the Mac, but that shouldn’t be interpreted in terms of relative security, but in terms of target density. There are fewer Mac users, especially fewer corporate Mac users, available to pay the ransoms. Apple is, however, growing faster in the PC market than Windows vendors. Any increase in Apple’s user base makes the systems a more attractive target for cybercriminals.
More than ever, the time has come for the security for Apple devices to be taken very seriously. Are the Macs connected to your network protected in the same way Windows machines are? Are your Mac-using employees educated about the steps they should take to prevent malware from infecting their devices? If not, your risks of being hit with Mac-targeted malware are only going to increase.
Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba