How to protect your Mac against ransomware and other cyberthreats

A popular myth says that “Mac’s don’t get viruses,” but that’s never quite been true — and today’s Mac users face more cyberthreats than ever before. If you’ve got a friend or family member who thinks they don’t have to worry about cybersecurity, pass along this article.

You’ve probably heard that Mac computers are somehow more resistant to viruses than their Windows counterparts. That’s been the conventional wisdom for years — but would you bet the safety of your personal files on it?

Think “Macs don’t get viruses”? Think again!

If only the old adage were true. The reality is a bit tougher — Macs are susceptible to viruses, ransomware, and other cyber threats.

How did this myth get started? It’s due, in part, to the fact that years ago, there just weren’t very many Macs out there in the world. Cybercriminals tended to focus on Windows systems because it was a more effective use of their time. Any viruses they designed to target Windows could be deployed against many more computers.

In terms of market share, Windows is still the reigning champion, but Macs have been steadily increasing in popularity for years. About 15% of all desktop/laptop computers are now running some version of macOS — double the percentage of 10 years ago.

In response, cybercriminals have stepped up their attacks against Macs.

Mac ransomware is a growing threat

You’ve probably seen ransomware quite a bit in the news recently. It’s currently the most popular type of malware, and Mac users are increasingly at risk.

One prime example of the growing danger is the UpdateAgent malware. While this threat first appeared in 2020, a new variant emerged earlier this year and introduced some new tricks.

By impersonating legitimate software and retrieving malicious instructions from a remote source, it bypassed the native protection from macOS’s Gatekeeper technology, which ensures that only trusted software is allowed to run.

It’s easy to assume that you’re “too small to target,” but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of advances in automation and other technologies to attack hundreds, even thousands of computers. Think of it like throwing out a big net: anyone could get caught.

From personal photos/videos to financial documents to freelance projects, most of us have significant amounts of valuable data on our home computers and mobile devices. Losing this would be devastating. And while data backups are a great idea, they’re not enough on their own to protect you from harm.

Most newer types of ransomware don’t just encrypt your data — they steal copies of it first and upload them to a remote server. This gives cybercriminals extra leverage. Even if you refuse to pay the ransom (because you can just restore the data from backup), they may threaten to release your personal files online or use them to plan future attacks.

Many cyber threats are “OS-agnostic,” meaning they don’t care what operating system you use. For instance:

  • Attacks on web-based apps and services (like Microsoft 365) could lead to data loss
  • Phishing emails can impact anyone, causing you to download a malicious attachment or inadvertently reveal sensitive information — whether on a Windows computer, a Mac, or even your smartphone.
  • Even offline events, like hardware damage or having your laptop stolen, can cause you to lose valuable files, photos, and other data if they’re not safely backed up.

One thing should be clear: for Macs as well as Windows PCs, cybersecurity has become a basic need.

Protect your Mac with these tips

The quickest way to step up protection for your Mac is to ensure you follow basic “best practices” for cybersecurity. You remember them. They are the ones you spend hours reminding everyone else to follow:

  • Avoiding clicking on email attachments or links from unknown senders
  • Installing the latest software updates as soon as they’re available
  • Never bypassing security settings to install apps if you’re not 100% certain of their safety

Still, even the tech-savviest among us can make mistakes or fall victim to ransomware and other cyber threats. That’s why it’s so important to invest in cybersecurity and data backup tools, to block malware before it can harm your data — and to restore that data safely when the need arises.

Source: Bleeping Computer, Acronis