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Can Macs get Viruses? Fact vs Fiction

If you are a Mac user, or even if you aren't, there's a good chance that you've heard the folklore that "Macs don't get viruses".  Fact, or fiction?  Let's explore.

Mac vs PC: Ecosystem

Earlier in the evolution of personal computing history, Macs were seen as a closed ecosystem on many dimensions, including:

  • Software Development: in the early days of Mac, few software developers that didn't own a Mac had the ingenuity to develop software for the Mac -- in the early days it would have taken quite a clever setup to orchestrate a way to build Mac software from a PC software development workstation.  Not so today.  You can easily build Mac software from just about any software development setup.  That ease-of-development (unfortunately) also extends to hackers wanting to build exploits.
  • Limited Compatibility:  Remember the days when you'd routinely hear the question "is that app compatible with Mac"?  Me too.  But, in the modern era, where webapps abound, cross-platform development is the norm, and advanced folks have ready access to homebrew or macports, the proliferation of software that would sometimes stop short of Mac compatibility is mostly a thing of the past.
  • Limited Exploit Testing Capabilities:  There was a time when the Macs were not prevalent or readily available in certain global communities where some virus software originates, limiting the ability of devious cybercriminals -- by way of not having ready access to a Mac to test their malicious software on.  Not so today, where Apple's distribution reach for Mac products is broad and realiable.

In many ways, the breadth and nature of the Mac ecosystem has broadened and evolved in ways that have made it more susceptable to being targetted by cyber criminals.

Mac vs PC: Current Trends

For the past six financial quarters, Apple has been no lower than #3 on the list of the world's most valuable publicly-traded companies.  That should tell you something about the rising prevalence of Apple devices.

Along with that rise in popularity, Apple products have seen a dramatic change in their role in the cybersecurity threat ecosystem, with MalwareBytes reporting that in 2019 there was a 400% increase in threats on Mac.

A particularly stunning piece of research suggests that threats against Macs now outpace threats against PCs by a ratio of 2:1.  It's safe to say that Mac is officially on the RADAR, bigtime, for cybercriminals looking for their next target.

Macs & DNS Filtering

An emerging trend (well, really a trend that has been brewing since 1997 but is more important than ever), is the need to protect both Macs and PCs via use of DNS Filtering.  When a Mac user is browsing the web or following links received via email, think of DNS Filtering as a way to catch you right in the moment before you browse to a potentially harmful site.  For example, a site that is a known source of malware, ransomware, etc.

With DNS Filtering -- which is just as relevant to Mac as PC -- you'll automatically get blocked from visiting harmful sites like those.

Can Macs Get Viruses?  Stay Safe Out There.

At Havoc Shield we believe that cybersecurity posture needs to be equally strong regardless of endpoint type (Mac, PC, or otherwise).  The cyber perimeter around your company is only as strong as it's weakest link.  Want to get started evaluating the vulnerabilities in your perimeter?  We're here to help.

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