Mac malware threat still tiny, report suggests

But OS X vulnerabilities on the rise

Virus writers finally paid some attention to Apple Macs in 2010, with several new types of malware appearing to puncture the myth of the platform's security invulnerability, security company Intego has reported in its annual review.

The numbers are still tiny and hard to meaningfully compare to PC equivalents, but it does look as if there has recently been a modest rise in the sophistication of Mac malware.

Perhaps the most interesting was October's Koobface/Bonnana variant, which installed a malicious Java applet using social media sites to spread infection. This gained more attention for its cross-platform capabilities, targeting Mac, Windows and even Linux users, and holds a warning for the future: malware writers might start using Java more often to 'weaponise' browser malware for a range of platforms and not only Windows.

The company also mentions the appearance of backdoor malware, HellRTS, and an unamed ransomware program that both appeared during the year, but both of these are rated as proof-of-concept malware rather than a live threat. Meanwhile, older threats seem to hang around longer than they would in the PC world, including the DNS-tampering malware form 2007, RSPlug.

The company goes on to document a clutch of Mac OS X and iPhone iOS vulnerabilities plus some affecting vendors such as Adobe, Microsoft and Mozilla's Firefox.

None of this should be tremendously frightening for Mac users. The Intego report runs to five pages, about the length of the table of contents alone on many Windows security reports which have appeared this month. Mac malware is still a small threat in absolute let alone relative terms.

Significant in 2010, however, was the uptick in the number of free Mac antivirus programs, including one from Sophos, which set out to address what is undoubtedly still the platform's software underbelly - many Mac users don't run an antivirus program at all.

This fact offsets the relative rarity of Mac Malware in that any malware encountering an unprotected user will have a far higher chance of achieving infection.

It could also be that Mac security issues are under-reported, which leads to an underestimation of the problem. If many Mac users have no relationship with a security company through using antivirus software they won't show up in statistics as and when they do hit trouble.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Personal TechApplesecurityIntego

More about Adobe SystemsAppleIntegoLinuxMacsMicrosoftMozillaSophos

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts