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Mac malware hit all-time high in 2015

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:07PM EST
Mac Malware

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Historically, the Mac has been much less prone to various types of malware attacks than Windows machines. Of course, this is largely due to the fact that Windows, on account of its dominant market share, has long been a much more appealing target for hackers. But in recent years, as Apple’s share of the PC market has grown, malware specifically targeting Apple’s Mac platform slowly but surely began to increase. In the process, the types of malware attacks targeting Macs have also became far more insidious and, at times, sophisticated.

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With that as a backdrop, a new report from Bit9 and Carbon Black relays that 2015 was the most prolific year for Mac malware in history. The report specifically states that OS X malware this past year was five times more prevalent than during the preceding five years combined.

BleepingComputer summarized some of the report’s findings:

During the 10 week study, over 1,400 unique malware samples were collected and analyzed. Some of the most common OSX malware in 2015 were:

Lamadai – backdoor Trojan targeting a Java vulnerability.
Kitm – ran commands on machines for victims at the Oslo Freedom Forum
Hackback – ran commands on machines for victims at the Oslo Freedom Forum
LaoShu – spam via undelivered mail parcels
Appetite – Trojan targeting government organizations
Coin Thief – stole bitcoin login credentials via cracked AngryBird applications.

Driving the point home, Bit9 and Carbon Black also put out the chart below.

Now to be fair, it’s not as if every piece of discovered malware is something to fret about. Indeed, the vast majority of new malware attacks targeting OS X aren’t entirely complex or prone to spreading. For instance, you might recall the Wirelurker malware that emerged last year — though technically a piece of malware affecting the Mac, the actual odds of it affecting end users was arguably negligible.

And though malware on the Mac may be on the rise, attackers still prefer attacking Windows machines by a wide margin.

“If you put all of the Mac malware that we’ve seen, and you combine those numbers for the history of OS X, basically it is less by a significant amount than the amount of Windows malware you will see in an hour,” security analyst Rich Mogull recently told Network World.

As a final point, it’s also worth keeping in mind that security companies may be inclined to amplify the true threat of malware on any system. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that the Mac isn’t the bastion of pure safety that it perhaps once was.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.