What happened to Apple's Immunity?

Infections are Spreading to the Apple World

The same old infections that have been plaguing Windows-based systems for years are spreading their way into the world of Apple.

PC viruses are being re-written to infect the Apple OS. With Apple computers gaining in popularity they have finally become a big enough target to write about, or should I say, to write for. Bottom line is that it takes time to write a good infection, so when investing this time one would tend to aim at the largest group of systems out there (Windows Based Systems) for maximum effect.

What's the Big Deal?

While most of the Mac-oriented infections are simple adware, malware, or browser redirectors, some of the newest infections are more than just a nuisance. The ‘KeRanger’ malware is among the most malicious type of infection. It appeared hidden in the BitTorrent application which is a popular file-sharing application. Once downloaded to the host it encrypts many common types of documents and demands a ransom to get the data back. The data is not recoverable unless the ransom is paid, but if it is paid there is no guarantee that the crooks will uphold their end of the bargain and unencrypt the data.

"I Thought Macs Could Not Get Infections"

This is a statement that I hear almost daily now when I have to tell a customer that their Apple computer is infected and need a virus removal. The reality is that although Apple has worked very hard at keeping an exceptionally high level of security built in to their Operating Systems, it is not bullet proof. We also have to add into the mix that most Apple users have this perception. Most do not use antivirus software that would add another layer of security to their system and potentially prevent an infection.

What to do:

To protect yourself against these new threats you must follow a few simple rules.

  • Keep your operating system up to date:

    Make sure that your operating system is set to download and install security updates automatically to ensure that you have all of the latest security patches and fixes.

  • Install an antivirus program:

    Install a good antivirus program that protects your operating system in real time and make sure that it is also set to update automatically (Contact us for recommendations).

  • Be suspicious:

    Even if the first two steps are adhered to it is still not a perfect solution. New infections come out every day and security patches and antivirus definition updates are created and distributed often after an infection has attacked thousands of systems.

    File share has always been very unsafe and is not recommended if you are concerned about security.

    If searching for a website, make sure that you look at the actual web address for the link and not just the bold heading. The heading can say just about anything that pertains to what you are searching for but if the actual web address or "URL" doesn’t make sense, don’t click on it.

    If you receive an email from someone that you don’t know or didn’t expect from a company don’t open it and be very weary of any attachments which are often a conduit for infections. Even if you know a sender and you open the email, don’t click on any links provided or open any attachments if the content doesn’t make sense or isn’t what you would expect from that person (their email account could be compromised).

    *** Most infections rely tricking the user into allowing them to bypass system security.

The Price of Popularity

Apple has been a safe bet in the past when it comes to infections. I have only seen a few pop up here or there in the last 16 years and most were quickly exterminated by a security update from Apple. It was just over a year ago that I was not recommending an antivirus on a Mac for they could be more problematic than the rare infection that they would potentially resolve. This past year has gone from a trickle of very minor infections to a plethora of much more intrusive and devious malware. Apple is actively combating the threats by further tightening it’s security like locking down some of the more crucial core operating system files so even a system administrator cannot modify them (in the latest OS, El Capitan) but as they further grow in popularity, I feel like this trend will continue. There is no guarantee against infections on any type of system.

If you have any questions or concerns about OS X (we support all modern and legacy versions back to OS 9.2) or any other computer issue, please contact Winchester Computers and we will be happy to assist you.

By Robert Hester