While we work on Macs and PCs at DoctorDave Computer Repair, we used to see way more viruses and malware on PCs rather than Macs. In the past six months, that’s changed. We see way fewer virus problems on Windows-based PCs and more issues on Macs.
In my experience, there are a few reasons for that. On the Windows side, few people use computers without some anti-virus and anti-malware protection. We recommend Malwarebytes (and sell it at a discount to our clients). As long as you keep your anti-malware program up to date and run regular security updates, you’re unlikely to get a PC virus today. That’s one thing we always check during our yearly checkups.
Macs Get Viruses?
On the Mac, there was a time when viruses were nearly unheard of. Some of the first viruses we saw were on the Apple Macintosh back in the 90s. Then Apple redesigned its operating system, and we started seeing those Mac versus PC commercials.
As Macs grew in popularity with the general public, they grew in popularity with hackers. Bad people realized money could be made by infecting computers. The infections we see on Macs don’t use security holes in the operating system to infect people. Apple made that very hard. Instead, they trick people into installing stuff. When we’re repairing computers, we can see what the client did. In the downloads folder is some fake update to Quicktime or Flash.
When I reviewed our Mac clients in Lawrence and Topeka, our early warning system indicated the most common type of malware Macs get were due to fake ads. That fake ad said the client needed to download something. That something then infected the computer.
This Mac malware does a few scary things:
- Steal passwords: when you type in a password, the hackers get a copy and can steal your identity or other information.
- Redirect search results: instead of taking you directly to a website, the malware sends you somewhere else and tried to sell you things you don’t want.
- Trick you into calling a number: the most damaging situation is when a client calls a number that appears to be real. They willingly give information to a scammer.
Our results match national statistics as explained in this report. It’s clear that Macs are not only susceptible to malware, but Mac infections are also now on top ten lists of worldwide threats.
What can you do about it?
First, don’t download updates directly. With Apple’s App Store, Apple does most of the updating on stuff. When you go to a website, and it asks you to download something, don’t do it. When in doubt, use our DoctorDave App for the iPhone and send us a picture. We can tell you if it’s legit. If you’re a client of ours, our Mac early-warning system will say to us if you’ve accidentally downloaded a virus. Don’t worry; it doesn’t tell us what you were doing or how you got it: just your name and what’s wrong with your computer. Client privacy and security are our top concerns.
Second, since so much malware comes in through ads, it’s vital to install an ad blocker in your browser. We do that automatically for our wellness clients and often recommend it during service calls. Ads can infect any browser. Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari browser are both very susceptible as well as Firefox and even Opera.
Finally, we’re recommending Malwarebytes to our Mac clients. In particular to clients that have had infections in the past. The $40 a year (our clients get a $5 discount) is well worth the peace of mind knowing you’re protected against hackers and identity thieves.