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Tech Alert: Macs and Malware, Crypto Ransomware Is on Your Tracks

Working_at_laptop.jpgWill macOS and iOS be able to handle the malware specifically targeted at Mac in 2017?

Apple is known to have some of the best built-in security protections on the market. But like everything, there are limitations to what it can protect you from.

You may have heard about the Crypto ransomware that's causing havoc on PCs for years. A form of it has been found attacking Macs too. 

Thus far, the Mac ransomware that’s been discovered isn’t as sophisticated as the attacks on PCs. But hackers are clever and strong-willed. MacOS will continue to be targeted as Apple’s market share continues to grow.

What’s Going On With Mac Ransomware?

The most recent viruses trace back to pirated or “cracked” software and free online tools. When they’re downloaded, your machine is infected. They’re also attacking through Word documents. These Word documents ask for permission to enable or disable Macros. You should select “opt out” or “Do Not Open.” If you don’t, the hackers will be in, your system will be infected, and havoc will ensue.

Mac users have been resting on their laurels. For a long time, they haven’t paid much attention to what they download or which websites they visit, since they thought Macs don’t get viruses. But the end days of those easy-going shenanigans have come.

This malware is dangerous. It’s tough to detect and offers the attacker full control over any system that has been infected.

Defense Against Mac Threats

For starters, be careful with what you download and which websites you visit. As a rule of thumb, only download applications from the App Store. Most things you need should be available there. If not, check with your local Apple store or IT professional to see what safe alternatives are out there.

Security software is your best bet against downloads from 3rd party places. It’ll also help keep you safe from some malicious online downloads. Even so, you still need to be extra careful. Malware likes to disguise itself as brand name software. Check software ratings from AV-Test’s and other independent testing companies. You can see their real-time results of the best security software options. Keep in mind you might need more than one, depending on what you are doing with your computer. Talk to your IT professional for specific advice.

Some Best Practices for Mac Security

  • Keep your Mac up to date. – Out-of-date software leaves you vulnerable. Use updates from the App Store. Never use pop-up updates, as those can be scams.
  • Passwords – Seems simple enough, but most people don’t use strong passwords. Aim for 8 characters with numbers, letters, and special characters.
  • NEVER open attachments from unknown sources – This seems obvious but it’s the downfall of too many trusting people. Don’t open anything you aren’t 100% sure about. And even if you do know that person, if something seems odd, call the person and ask before opening it.
  • Firewall – Macs come with a built-in firewall. Make sure it’s enabled: System Preferences > Security > Firewall.
  • Java - This should be disabled in your browsers: Safari > Preferences> Security unchecked “Enable Java”

What’s to Come With Mac Malware and Viruses?

You guessed it, more malware. It’ll become harder to detect, trickier to avoid, and easier to share across computers, software and phones. For example, the latest Mac malware has just been found to work even better on Linux computers.

Social engineering is set to strike the battleground of malware on all fronts. Using platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, they will confuse you into downloading malware.

While not the best written crypto-ransomware, macOS is still vulnerable. Realistically speaking, this macOS malware is only going to get stronger. According to Sophos, these latest threats are “clearly written for the Mac on a Mac by a Mac user.” We’ll see more of this to come.

There are also increased risks when it comes to downloads. Your best option is to stay diligent about downloads and website safety. Follow it up by installing additional security measures, like antivirus. 

Related: Macs and PCs - Why Can't We Just Get Along

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