New research: macOS faces a surge in malware targeting it


New research reports that there has been a significant increase in the amount of malware targeting macOS devices over the past 12 months.

A report by Atlas VPN found that macOS malware development rose 1.092% in 2020 as hackers increasingly target Apple’s computing devices, including the all-new M1 Macs.

Overall, 674,273 new malware samples were discovered in 2020 – a significant increase from the previous year, when only 56,556 samples were discovered.

And the numbers show that 2020 has been a year of copious abundance for macOS malware, with a number of new strains emerging like never before.

Atlas VPN notes that if all new malware that was discovered since it began tracking in 2012 through 2019 were combined, that results in 219,257 samples – well below the number seen in 2020.

From 2012 through 2019, the highest number of new malware strains ever discovered was 9,270 samples in 2018, indicating that 2020 has been a year of abundance for seasoned hackers.

Rachel Welch, Operations Director at Atlas VPN, notes that contributing to this record rise in threats is the fact that new malware is now easier to engineer than ever before.

She added: Nowadays, hackers do not need advanced programming skills as they can buy the malware code ready-made, adapt it to their needs with a little programming, and create an entirely new threat.

Alerts were raised earlier this year when the first native malware was detected on the M1-powered MacBook, just months after the first Apple Silicon devices arrived.

MacOS security researcher Patrick Wardle detailed a Safari add-on called GoSearch22, which was originally written to run on Intel x86 chips, but modified to run on ARM-based M1 chips.

The add-on was first seen on November 23, 2020, according to a sample uploaded on December 27 via Alphabet’s antivirus testing platform, VirusTotal.

“The extension collects user data and floods the screen with illegal ads, but it can be updated with more harmful functions,” Wardle said.

Despite the rise in macOS malware, Atlas VPN has highlighted that the number of attacks targeting Windows users is still much higher.

The company discovered a record 91.05 million new samples of Windows malware detected in 2020 – an average of 249,452 threats per day.

This number means that the threats facing Windows in 2020 amounted to 135 times the threats faced by macOS.


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