For a long time, Mac users have been quietly confident about the fact their machines are less likely to succumb to malware attacks. And so they could be. Traditionally it’s been the more dominant Windows machine that has posed the highest risk. But as Apple has steadily eaten into Windows market share and Macs have become commonplace within the corporate sector, so has their appeal for hackers.
"The days of overconfidence in the security of Macs are limited, if not gone."
A recent report from Bit9 and Carbon Black revealed that 2015 was the most aggressive year to date for Mac malware. In fact their study found that OS X malware, in particular, was five times more prevalent in 2015 than what it had been in the preceding five years combined! Even though the combined amount for the history of OS X malware is less than what we see for Windows in a single hour, this data certainly points to a growing interest from cybercriminals. The days of overconfidence in the security of Macs are limited, if not gone. It also highlights the need for businesses to ensure their IT departments are utilising the best possible approaches to keep Macs protected.
5 Simple Actions to Protect Your Mac
1. Keep Your Software Updated
Apple is proactive about building security into their software and regularly pushing out updates that are designed to add layers of safety to your machine. To benefit though, you need to ensure you’re keeping your software as up to date as possible. Ignore those update notifications at your peril.
2. Install Antivirus
Running a good antivirus is the easiest way to protect your Mac from malware. There are several critically acclaimed free choices for home users including Sophos, ClamXAV and Avast. These modern applications are a far cry from their cumbersome predecessors and are now lightweight and unobtrusive.
For business users, although robust protection is built into modern gateway devices (routers) or can be added through subscription, endpoint protection is a belt and braces approach. Sophos offer a cloud version of their antivirus app. It’s installed on each workstation (Mac or PC) and managed from a web interface, removing the need for expensive in-house hardware to manage the antivirus suite. Another great option paid option is Malwarebytes, which helps block malicious websites, prevent future infections and cleans up current infections.
3. Enable OS X Firewall
OS X v10.5.1 and later ships with an embedded firewall, but it’s disabled by default. This means you’ll have to manually configure the application to enable it. Once enabled, OS X firewall will block unauthorised applications from communicating with your machine. This can protect you against attempts to control your machine remotely and other nefarious endeavours. Be sure to add your authorised applications in though!
4. Don’t Run as Admin
Everyone needs an admin password from time to time. But if you’re constantly logged in as user that has the power to make changes to your machine, then so does any virus that infects your account. A better approach is to have an admin account, which you use to install applications or make changes to your system, but log in as a standard user for your general work. If you use this method the damage a virus can do is limited to the privileges of the standard account.
5. Turn On Filename Extension Display
Viruses sometimes use clever tactics to disguise themselves as innocuous files. For example, a worm installer could masquerade as an image or a word document by simply changing its icon. A quick way to spot, and thwart, these types of attacks is to enable the display of the filename extensions. (To do this navigate to Finder > Preferences, then click Advanced and select “Show all filename extensions.”) Once enabled, if you see a .dmg file with a word doc icon, you can be sure something isn’t right and it would be wise to remove the threatening file.
The rise of malware attacks against Macs is indicative of a burgeoning market share, and with no outlook of a slowdown, it’s best to start taking a proactive approach to Mac security. Follow these simple steps to build robust protection for your Mac users and keep those would-be hackers at bay.
Need some advice or assistance on how to keep your Macs (or PCs) safe? Get in touch and we'll gladly chat through your specific requirements and available solutions.