In the wake of the headline-grabbing cyber attack of May 2017, you’ve probably felt at least a little smug as a committed Apple user. It’s known that the WannaCry ransomware at the center of the attack specifically targeted Windows machines, leaving Macs unscathed.
Furthermore, it was Microsoft Windows that made the news all over the UK. This was due to the fact that the attack’s significant impact on the country’s National Health Service was largely caused by many departments continuing to use unsupported copies of Windows XP, as the Guardian writes.
What about Mac viruses?
While it’s fair to say that Apple Macs have never been targeted by hackers as much as Windows machines, complacency is foolish when it comes to cybersecurity. People once thought that Apple users could manage quite safely without running an antivirus, but is this really still a sensible strategy?
In actual fact, mainstream news sources such as Forbes have been reporting on Mac viruses for many years now. Despite the fact that the Unix-based Mac OS does some clever things to prevent against viruses, such as checking files against lists of known malware and running programs in a “sandboxed” way to limit any damage they can do, Macs do still fall victim to infection. If you keep an eye on technical news stories, you probably hear more and more about these infections nowadays too.
So, while Apple’s smaller market share may make producing Mac malware less of a priority to hackers, Macs are, by no means, off their radar. Anti-malware software is, therefore, at least worth serious consideration if you are a Mac user.
Minimising other risks to Macs
Having established that Apple Macs perhaps aren’t quite as safe as they once were, let’s consider what risks exist and how you can mitigate them.
There are three things every Mac user can do make their systems as safe as possible. Thankfully these don’t take too much effort to implement.
1. Install updates promptly
If you’re one of those people who tends to click “ask me tomorrow” whenever you’re prompted to carry out a system update on your Mac, it’s time to change your approach and start installing updates as soon as you see them. Usually, when a big threat to Macs is discovered, Apple is quick to roll out preventative fixes – but this won’t be much use to you if you don’t install them.
A patch that protected Windows users from the WannaCry ransomware was made available by Microsoft many weeks before the large-scale cyber attack. Many of those affected could have avoided trouble by installing this patch on time.
2. Choose your applications and services carefully
Most software nowadays has at least some online element – so no matter how secure your Mac is, you’re still at risk if a software vendor isn’t taking good care of security on their end.
In 2016, Verizon revealed that the number one source of data breaches are “Web Application Attacks.” This means hackers are attacking the servers that host customer data. One hopes and assumes that large companies will have systems in place such as a web application firewall to protect against hackers, but can we make the same assumption about smaller software firms?
A web application firewall can protect online systems from all kinds of online security risks, but only if you’re only surfing websites and making online purchases on sites that actually made the necessary investment in one. So, make sure you’re confident in the software you choose, asking about their security if need be. Otherwise, a company’s shortcuts can become your problem.
3. Always remember physical security
Even if you have top-class antivirus and only use the safest of online services, your Mac isn’t safe if someone steals it! Unfortunately, Apple kit is desirable – and a real target for thieves, so the best thing you can do is make sure that if someone does steal your Mac, there’s nothing much they can do with it.
First off, make sure you use FileVault to encrypt your storage drive. This will stop anyone accessing any of your data. Activate Find my Mac as well, to give yourself the best chance of tracking it down. Finally, don’t undermine all of your other security efforts by assigning a weak password to your computer!
Macs are still safer that Windows machines if you look at the statistics. However, they’re neither bullet-proof nor as (relatively) safe as they once were. It’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your data.