Mac Threats and Malware Are on the Rise – But Should You Be Worried?

2019 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar Credit: Achilleas Chiras / Shutterstock
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Threats to macOS were on the rise throughout 2019, according to a new report by anti-malware maker Malwarebytes.

The company’s data shows that, out of the top 25 threat detections in 2019, about six were Mac-specific threats. All in all, Mac threats and malicious programs made up about 16 percent of total detections this year.

That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a significant number because Mac users make up only 1/12 of Malwarebyte’s user base.

“Perhaps 16 percent doesn’t sound impressive, but when you consider the number of devices on which these threats were detected, the results become extremely interesting,” Malwarebytes wrote.

This year marked a turning point for Mac malware, too. According to the firm, 2019 is the first time that Mac threats broke into the top five most commonly detected malware.

As far as what threats were actually detected, it’s important to note that Mac malware is typically made up of “unwanted programs” or adware rather than more malicious software.

One of those Mac threats is NewTab, which ranked as the second most common malware detection last year. NewTab can only target Chrome browsers, but can use extensions to modify the content of webpages that a user loads.

Another of the top five threats was PUP-PCVARK, a “potentially unwanted program” that earns that designation because it may not be something that a user installed intentionally.

Malwarebytes says that, according to its data, there were on average 9.8 detections per Mac, compared to 4.2 per Windows.

So, Should I Be Worried?

But, again, there are some caveats with that data. Take into account that most Mac users don’t believe that anti-malware or anti-virus is necessary — and Malwarebytes only gathers data from machines that actually have its app installed.

Because of that, it’s likely that the Macs used for these figures already had some type of “suspected infection” that caused users to download the program.

Even Malwarebytes, a company that stands to benefit from users downloading its app, believes that the overall rate of Mac malware is likely lower than what its own numbers suggest.

With all of that being said, there are definitely malicious programs out there that can affect your Mac. So we recommend keeping some simple tips in mind to keep your device safe.

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