Macs are in such high demand because they are not only amazing computers, but also at low risk for being attacked by hackers. For years, consumers believed that compared to personal computers (PCs), Macs were the superior choice from a security standpoint. While that was true for some time, Mac OS X has been experiencing more and more small cyberattacks, bringing its security into question.
Keep in mind that the level of security really depends on the exact version of Mac OS X. In looking at the number of malware programs that target Mac computers versus Windows, there is a dramatic difference. Even though roughly 700,000 users of Mac OS X did experience the Flashback Trojan virus, the number of affected PC users was much higher.
Mac OS X Security
Mac has an advantage in that manufacturers respond quickly to the virus. In contrast, the time that PC patches take to reach users can increase vulnerabilities. As such, people who use Macs are provided with appropriate fixes quicker, thereby experiencing less damage and inconvenience.
While it is true that hackers seldom attack Mac computers, there is still a risk, and it is growing. As these smaller attacks continue, users are beginning to understand that even on a Mac computer, security is vital. For that reason, an increasing number of users are installing various antimalware products.
A Mac OS X remains a better choice than a PC when it comes to security, but there is a growing concern, as the small attacks seem to be growing. Attacks against this platform really started to evolve in 2013, although none like the major Flashback attack of 2012. Recently, experts have identified a steady stream of what they refer to as “modest and creative” cyberattacks:
- Java platform flaws
- MS Word document format flaws
- Python scripts
- Aggressive browser plugins
- Signed malware with an Apple Developer ID that gets past Gatekeeper protection
One of the more interesting things discovered from the 2012 attack is that hackers are becoming smarter and more sophisticated. For instance, hackers realize it is easier to attack companies by going through smaller websites that employees visit rather than mess with infrastructures that have powerful defenses.
In 2014, two Web security companies found backdoor Trojan viruses that had compromised Mac computers in Asia.; the viruses literally booby-trapped documents created in Microsoft Word. They were embedded within documents that supposedly were written about human rights abuses going on in Tibet. As a result, speculation grew that perhaps sources associated with the government of China carried out the attack.
Last February, other viruses were embedded in Word documents about alleged abuses in other Asian countries. Now, those types of attacks can only occur if a vulnerability linked to Word 2004/2008 has not been fixed with a provided patch. Unfortunately, these were not the only smaller attacks involving Mac OS X.
In the fall of 2013, another backdoor attack took place that transmitted information pertaining to the computer that was infected. Based on the version of the virus, some actually tried to download a Syrian Electronic Army image. The Syrian Electronic Army is a group of hackers vowing to wreak havoc through cyberattacks in support of the Syrian government.
Another incident involved emails delivering Christmas card applications having a working Developer ID. Between December 2012 and February 2013, emails were received with the signature of Rajinder Kumar, an Apple developer. Apple then revoked the ID. Last summer, the Janicab Trojan, which is Python based, tried to use the same method.
Obviously, any cyberattack on a Mac OS X is unnerving, but there are some positive things to consider. Again, compared to PCs, the volume of attacks is significantly less. In addition, when an attack does occur, manufacturers respond extremely quickly. Therefore, the Mac remains the safer of the two computer types.