A client shows that Macs are not as safe as you think

A common misconception among Mac users is that their Apple products are immune from malware and security issues often seen in Microsoft products. A decade ago, this was pretty much true. Mac OS had a streamlined approach to security that was difficult to crack, but more importantly, Apple users were massively dwarfed by Microsoft and weren’t worth the time to target. Hackers wanted the easy score, not something they actually had to work at. Unfortunately, many Mac users still believe they’re impervious to threats, but they are ignoring two major changes in the computer landscape.

1) After years of abuse, and rightfully so, Microsoft has now surpassed Apple in terms of protection. Since the Windows Vista introduction in 2007, their OS has employed ”address space layout randomisation (ASLR) which is implemented so as to obscure most of what an attacker needs to conduct, for example, shell code injection attacks.” Despite acquiring ASLR in 2007, Mac OS has yet to implement this same degree of protection.

2) Apple has seen fabulous growth in the personal computer market. In 2003, Apple had just 2.06% of the desktop computer market. Just five years later, that number was at 14% and has now diversified further with the advent of the hugely popular iPhone and iPad. Not surprisingly, Mac OS malware has grown in excess of 200% in the last three years!

Unfortunately, many companies are ignorant to this environmental shift and still assume their Macs are as secure as ever. Take for instance an advertising agency we recently consulted with. This agency employs over 50 individuals and boasts several Fortune 500 accounts. Like many ad firms, Macs are their computer of choice.

Recently, one of their biggest clients had a security breach that originated from the agency office. The agency and client shared a portal where they frequently transferred images, files and documents. Besieged by a nasty piece of malware, the portal was rendered unusable.

What the agency didn’t realize is their Mac computers were hosting Windows-based malware. While the malware had zero effect on their Mac computers, it ran amok on the client’s Microsoft desktops after it was unknowingly transferred through the portal. This issue is prevalent in many Mac environments. According to Sophos, “A 100,000 strong snapshot of the millions of Mac computers which have recently downloaded Sophos’s free Mac anti-virus software, revealed that 20% of Mac computers were carrying one or more instances of Windows malware.”

Needless to say, if the agency realized that their fleet of Mac computers weren’t secure and at the very least invested in Sophos’ free Mac anti-virus software, this entire scenario would have never happened. If you are a Mac user or your company runs a Mac-based operation, please do us all a favor and download the aforementioned free anti-virus software. And if you really want to make sure all your bases are covered, give us a buzz and we’ll set you up with a free security review as well.

Sophos Apple Resources:

Download Sophos’ free Mac anti-virus software.

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