Malware

A few years ago, I worked in an Apple Store Genius Bar. The first thing that caught my attention was the number of customers coming in with malware issues. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase, “But I’m a Mac user, how did I get a virus?” I might have had a free lunch or two.

Historically, PCs used to be the primary target for malware attacks because the Windows OS had the biggest chunk of the market. Over the years Apple has slowly taken a bigger bite out of that share. With Macs starting to gain their fair share of the market, cyber criminals are starting to shift their focus to the Mac OS, as it is now a worthwhile target. Furthermore, Mac computers and tablets are generally priced higher than the market average, and the people who own them tend to have a higher income. The average household income for adult owners of Mac computers is $98,560, compared with $74,452 for a PC owner, according to technology market data firm Forrester. Hackers may see this as deeper pockets to steal from. It’s an opportunity thing. PC’s used to be the largest installed base, and now more than 50% of USA households have at least one Apple device.

As technology advances, and the entire Internet ecosystem changes, we’ve found that basic antivirus protection is just not enough. And, while every version of the Apple OS has basic security features built in, those features can only keep you safe to a degree. While Apple’s built-in protection can safeguard against viruses, there are a multitude of threats on the Internet that are not platform specific, and they are aimed at attempting to steal your data. So while, yes, Macs aren’t as much of a target as PCs are for certain forms of malware, the important thing to remember is that a Mac is not bulletproof.

Viruses hardly make up 50% of the threats out there. In fact, viruses are a small piece of the Apple malware pie. Social media scams, phishing attempts, and botnets are all just various forms of malware attempting to worm their way into your Apple, trying to get a piece of your sensitive personal data. Because online threats are more diverse these days, a more comprehensive security solution is needed. Antivirus software by itself provides the most basic protection: blocking viruses and spyware. Internet security solutions provide broader protection in various ways, such as blocking spam emails before they reach your inbox, scanning websites for malicious code, including built in firewalls and much more.

Being the “computer whiz” in my family, I have often found myself extending my expertise beyond the Apple Genius Bar. Recently, a family member mentioned to me that she had acquired a mysterious $2,984.21 charge on her credit card bill for suspicious “shipping charges.” Mysterious credit card charges can often be attributed to email phishing scams and other personal data breaches (which is why it is very important to monitor credit card bills closely). I suggested we sit down and examine some of her more recent emails. Sure enough, there was an email from what looked like a very convincing FedEx website, asking her for an additional payment for a shipment. Long story short, we were able to get the charges reversed, but this just goes to show that, even though you’re on a Mac, you can still fall victim to social scams and phishing.

In addition to being aware of scams and having comprehensive protection software, it is equally important to keep all of your software up to date. Click on that “Install Later” button when we’re prompted to install system updates, but that often leads to never actually getting around to completing the update. These software updates are extremely important because we’re now seeing a lot of cross-platform vulnerabilities in popular software. Many of widely used software is available for both Windows and Macs, so attackers are targeting those products in force.

Supplementary to the previously mentioned safeguards, there are a few more actions you can take to be safe.

Be sure to check your credit card statement regularly. If you do fall victim to a questionable charge, contact your credit card company within 30 days, as most companies will refund any fraudulent charges as long as you report it in a timely manner. Never click on links in suspicious emails. If you are concerned about the content in the email, you can go directly to the website in question via your browser and log in with your credentials there. Never supply any personal information when replying to emails. Be skeptical of enticing links posted on social networks. Always check the link before clicking. Only visit known and trusted websites.  Secure your iCloud account by using strong passwords, updating your security questions and using Two-Step verification. While Macs are lower on the risk scale from viruses, they are not invincible. There’s still a multitude of malware threats out there that they are susceptible to. Comprehensive Internet security solutions are a must no matter what platform you are on. You can make sure your bases are covered by using Norton 360 Multi-Device andhopefully, you’ll never have to show up at the Genius Bar asking that question I heard so often during my experience there.

Want to learn about all about the new Apple products announced recently? See part 2 of our 3 part series here. Part 3 addresses how to secure your iCloud account.

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