Did you know that Apple itself reported having detected and removed 130 types of Mac malware in 2020? What’s more, the company said these programs infected hundreds of thousands of units.
All that proves how Apple computers, although reliable, aren’t impregnable to threats.
So, if you use an Apple computer yourself, it’s imperative to know the most common types of malware on Macs. This guide lists the top macOS threats you need to be on the lookout for, as well as how to get rid of them, so be sure to read on.
Viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses
Viruses are small, replicating programs Mac malware that spread from one device to another. Almost all these malware programs attach themselves to executable files. They then infect a computer once a user launches or executes the infected file.
Worms are like viruses, except they can spread without human intervention. They can launch themselves on their own and travel unaided, causing widespread infections. They can also replicate and attach themselves to messages and emails.
Trojans don’t create duplicates, but they’re as destructive as viruses and worms. What’s more, they make themselves look like genuine applications. They provide cybercriminals backdoor access to your system, leaking your sensitive data Mac malware.
There are hundreds of Mac viruses, worms, and trojans, but one of the worst is Slayer. It’s a dangerous trojan, as it can bypass the built-in macOS security Gatekeeper. From there, the malware enables unapproved software to infiltrate the system.
A browser hijacker is a program that modifies browser settings without user consent. They’re not always malware; some are only potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). However, even PUPs are annoying, as they use computer resources, such as memory and power.
Unfortunately, many browser hijackers are types of malware meant to spy and steal. For example, some hijacking software can capture sensitive personal and financial user information. These include log-in credentials, personal information, and social security numbers.
Browser hijacker developers can then use the stolen data for personal gain. For instance, they can access their victims’ online banking account. From there, they can transfer their victim’s funds to their own accounts.
Many cybercriminals can also make fraudulent purchases via their victims’ credentials. Some even sell stolen data to third-party buyers who will also use the info for criminal purposes.
Such financial identity theft crimes are prevalent in the US. So much so that in 2020 alone, close to one in two consumers reported being a victim. Worse, these illegal activities resulted in losses totaling $712.4 billion.
On Macs, browser hijackers take the form of Search Baron, Bing Redirect, or Yahoo Redirect. Safe Finder, Trovi, and We know. ac are other types of browser hijacking software.
Advertising-Supported Software (Adware)
Adware is a type of program that generates unwanted ads on a computer, usually within a web browser. They come bundled with many free downloads of legitimate software. Software developers use them as a way to advertise their other products.
The thing is, many other adware programs come bundled with browser hijackers. These are manipulative and deceptive, and they use hard-sell advertisements or scare tactics. Worse, they can redirect you to websites infected with loads of malware.
Adware has always been a big problem in Windows PCs, but they’re now leading Mac malware threats, too. For instance, from 2018 to 2019, their detections in Apple devices have grown by a staggering 400%. During this period, there was an average of 11 adware types found on Macs.
Ransomware (Extortion Software)
Ransomware is one of the worse types of malware on Macs, as it uses extortion tactics. As the name suggests, such programs demand victims to pay a ransom to cybercriminals. Unless the user pays out, the entire computer or parts of it stay locked and inaccessible.
Ransomware works by infecting the operating system or individual drives, folders, or files. The malware then blocks access to the infected components, encrypting them. The only way to decrypt it is to pay the cybercriminals the ransom they demand.
We’re talking an average ransom payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars here. For example, organizations hit by a ransomware attack in 2019 paid an average of $115,123. This then spiked to a whopping $312,493 in 2020, representing an increase of 171%.
A few examples of ransomware on Macs are ThiefQuest, also known as EvilQuest, and KeRanger.
How to Detect and Eliminate Mac Malware and Threats
First, be aware of the signs of malware, such as pop-up ads, fake warnings, and slow Mac performance. Also, if your computer only has one or two active apps and it lags all the time, you likely have an infection.
In such cases, follow these steps on how to get rid of malware on your Mac.
Check Applications and Activity Monitor
To check the list of downloaded applications in your Mac, open a Launchpad window. All software programs you’ve installed on your computer should be there. Go through this list and make sure you know each one; if you find an unfamiliar name there, it may be a PUP or malware.
You should also check your Activity Monitor to see all active apps, programs, and services. You should only see familiar names there. If you encounter an unknown name, do a quick online search to confirm if it’s valid or trustworthy.
Delete All Unknown or Suspicious Files and Programs
To delete unfamiliar files or programs, launch a Finder window and search for the name of the file or app. Then, double-finger tap on the offending file or app name and select Move to Trash. Make sure you empty the Trash folder itself, too.
Check Safari Extensions
To check Safari, launch a Safari window, click the Safari tab on the menu bar, and then Preferences. Finally, select the Extensions tab on the window that pops up. This should show all installed extensions you have, so be sure to go through the entire list.
If you find any extension that you don’t know or believe to be a hijacker or adware, uninstall it.
Use an Apple-Notarized Mac Cleaner
Mac cleaners are tools designed to detect and eliminate PUPs and malware on Macs. They remove browser hijacking software, adware, viruses, worms, and trojans on Macs. They even let you delete PUPs and other junk files in your system in one go.
Before you download any Mac cleaner, though, be sure it has an Apple notarization. Apple-notarized apps are those checked by Apple itself for malicious components. They passed stringent testing, confirming they’re not malware.
Get Rid of Mac Malware before They Do More Damage
Keep in mind that cybercrime already cost the world $1 trillion in 2020 alone. Moreover, these attacks targeted organizations of all sizes and regular consumers. That should be enough reason to keep track of and remove potential Mac malware in your device ASAP.
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