For a very, very long time, one of the best things about owning a Mac was that you weren’t a prime target for most malware. In recent years, however, Macs have gained traction in the PC market and sales figures remained constant even as Windows machines took a big hit. That popularity has put them in the spotlight for malware creators, and according to the newest McAfee Threat Report, malware threats to Apple computers grew by a whopping 744% in 2016.
The report, which covers everything from instances of ransomware to the DDOS attacks carried out by the Mirai botnet, follows the trends established in the December 2016 Threat Report. In that release, McAfee noted that instances of new Mac OS malware had spiked 637% from Q2 2016 to Q3, thanks largely to a specific adware bundle that had hit a huge number of users. The new April 2017 report shows that new Mac OS malware grew a further 245% in Q4, leading the 2016 year-over-year figure to a 744% increase.
As huge as these numbers are, Mac OS malware is still a relatively small problem when compared to malware on Windows. In total, McAfee collected over 630 million malware samples in 2016, with the overwhelming majority of those being on the Windows platform. In fact, even Android malware outpaces that of Mac many times over, suggesting that while Macs are increasingly under attack, it’s still nothing like the threats that users of other platforms face.
What’s more, a huge percentage of what McAfee classifies as malware on Mac was adware that produced unwanted advertisements, rather than the more malicious forms of unwanted software which seek to do damage to the user’s hardware, hold files hostage, or steal information.