For years, an unfortunate rumor has persisted across generations of Apple users: that Mac products cannot really be infected by viruses and that in general they are much safer than their Microsoft counterparts. This misunderstanding has caused low awareness among Mac users regarding the security risks they face. Why did this rumor start, why is it not true, and what should Mac enthusiasts concerned about cybersecurity do?
Are Apple Users Truly Safe? Debunking the Myth
Back in the early days, it was mostly Windows machines that were targeted by viruses, while Apple computers seemed to be fairly safe from harm. This might have had a lot to do with the fact that Microsoft’s market share in the personal computer industry was far larger than Apple’s. It simply didn’t make much sense for virus developers to target Apple users, as it required rebuilding the malicious software around a different operating system in order to gain access to a much lower number of potential victims.
Yet, although back then a Mac user was much safer than a Windows follower, things have now radically changed – so much that prominent Google security researcher James Forshaw made fun of Apple for trying to fix security issues he claims Windows solved 10 years ago. Nowadays, both Microsoft and Apple are relatively safe from viruses, but there are new, improved ways for hackers to attack, like exploiting flaws and launching ransomware.
— James Forshaw (@tiraniddo) 22 March 2018
In fact, both Macs and Windows are largely vulnerable to these, as is evidenced by the long list of recent malware that also targeted Apple users. From cybercurrency thief CookieMiner (which exploited Chrome and was revealed in January 2019), to cryptominer app Mshelper (specific to macOS and uncovered in May 2018), as well as OSX/Shlayer (also known as Crossrider, the adware that compromised Macs through executing phoney Adobe Flash Player installer software).
Luckily, privacy has recently become a top concern for developers and public authorities alike. This has led to software solutions that implement updated data security strategies in order to uncover hidden risks and safeguard data from external and internal threats, as well as ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. In this setting, Mac users are beginning to wise up to these dangers and move away from the misleading myth that they are by default safe from harm.
Apple Adoption Spreads – Mac Users Should Be More Mindful of Harm
Apple’s continuous success, which has led to its stock price growing by a staggering 15,000% in the 18 years since 2001, to reach no less than $1 trillion, means that Apple user numbers are increasing. It must be noted, though, that Apple’s financial success is also thanks to its relatively steep prices: according to the same source, even though Apple sells only 18% of the world’s smartphones, it accounts for a whopping 87% of all smartphone profit.
Mac use does seem to steadily grow, too. In Q1 2019, Mac sales alone made $7.4 billion. While the figure is still behind the $52 billion the iPhone brought in, it is an impressive 19.1% rise compared to Q1 2018. As things stood in February 2019, Windows still enjoyed the lion’s share across operating systems at 87.56%, with Mac OS a distant second at 9.65%. Still, there is an undeniable rise in Mac adoption rates, and more and more users joining the ranks of people excited about Apple products also means increased attention from hackers.
You will find more infographics at Statista
There are several protections that developers could install when designing software and apps or optimizing websites both for Windows and for macOS. In-built VPN support is one of those tools – which both OS and Windows offer – firewalls are another. Beyond that, there are also many things Mac users can do to increase their protection. Turning on the Firewall or even the FileVault, which automatically encrypts your personal data, under the Security & Privacy settings in System Preferences is a good place to start.
Users should also make sure that macOS and the different applications they use are regularly updated, as newer versions often include patches for uncovered vulnerabilities (an approach that would also benefit Windows users). Both Windows and macOS users should prefer to download applications only from the official app stores, as well as only choose software from sources that are trustworthy and perform well on reviews. To minimize chances that your Apple device is infected by malware, you should also be careful about incoming sources: steer clear of insecure public Wi-Fi networks and always scan removable devices.
It seems that Mac and Apple products are not, in fact, more secure than Windows and the rest of Microsoft’s line – so it also rests upon Apple users to learn more about cybersecurity and take some easy steps to enhance it.