Report Claims Mac Malware Threats Outpaced Windows PCs in 2019

In its State of Malware Report for 2020, Malwarebytes claims that Mac outpaced Windows PCs in the number of threats that were detected per endpoint.

In 2019, Malwarebytes detected 11 threats per Mac endpoint versus 5.8 threats per endpoint on Windows. The company notes that there has been a rise of 400% in Mac threats from 2018 to 2019, though a part of this can be attributed to the increased userbase of Malwarebytes itself.

Nonetheless, the increasing threat to Macs can be attributed to the platform being an attractive target for cybercriminals. Additionally, the safety features of macOS do not crack down on adware and unwanted programs in the same way as they do on malware.

The report also claims that two Mac threats appeared in the top three list in overall threat detections from Malwarebytes — NewTab and PCVARK. The former was detected by Malwarebytes over 30 million times in 2019! It was first discovered in December 2018 and has only spread like wildfire since then. The NewTab adware is spread through fake package or flight tracking apps or via fake directions pages.

Another popular Mac adware is Genio which was detected nearly 7 million times in 2019. This is the oldest Mac adware that was first found in 2013. It works by hijacking your browser and redirecting your searches and home pages to earn affiliate revenue.

While these threats are not considered as dangerous as traditional malware, they are becoming a much larger and more noticeable nuisance for Mac users, who can no longer say that their beloved systems are immune from malware. And despite the relative low-grade hassle from adware compared to that of, say, ransomware, these families are becoming more and more aggressive, displaying malicious and persistent behaviors to trick users into a false sense of security.

The data set has been collected by the firm from its own customers, honey pots, intelligence, and other research done from Jan 1 through December 31st.

Our Take

While the report paints a pretty poor picture for Mac in terms of malware and adware infiltration, one must remember that it has been published by Malwarebytes – a company that makes anti-virus for Windows and Mac. A similar study from an independent company would have made it more trustworthy. On the flip side though, it can also not be denied that macOS as a platform is now not as safe from threats as before.