It has long been accepted dogma among Mac users that their operating system is immune to the malware threats that plague other computers of the kind best personified by John Hodgman.
Ed Bott of ZDNet disagrees. Basing himself on a report from that at least one group has developed tools kit to create new malware specifically for Macs, he concludes, “Now that Macs have achieved a critical mass of success in the marketplace, they’ve attracted the attention of malware authors.”
The toolkit, he claims, is called Weyland-Yutani BOT and is the first of its kind. Its developers, he reports, are working on similar toolkits for Apple’s iPad and Linux. The only reason it hasn’t been released before now is that computers using Windows were “such a juicy target.” With Apple’s growing market share, they have achieved the critical mass that draws hackers’ attention.
After discussing several scenarios regarding how the malware would be deployed, Bott states that, “if a group decides to deploy an attack like this on a wide scale, the impact on Mac users could be devastating.” It may already be happening. NBC Bay Area reports that at least 200 Max users are reporting problems with malware on Mac-specific forums. The taboo against attacking the Mac may finally have been broken.
It is not yet an epidemic, according to Ars Technica, but it is a growing problem. After speaking to fourteen Mac specialists they found that, “Their experiences [with malware] are all over the map, but the general consensus does seem to lean towards a low amount of malware problems.” The biggest problem they have found is infection with Mac Defender, a fake anti-virus program. Some 5.8 of the Macs sold in Mac stores reported having malware problems over the last three weeks.
The problem is, however, getting worse, at least according to Bott. In a discussion with a Mac call center rep he was told, “I can tell you for a fact, many, many people are falling for this attack. Our call volume here at AppleCare is 4 to 5 times higher than normal and [the overwhelming majority] of our calls are about this Mac Defender and its aliases.”
Another factor that could be fueling this increase in malware is the overall impression among Mac users that their computers are significantly safer than standard PCs. Though Mac stores sell anti-virus software, most Mac users neither purchase nor install it, thinking that they are safe. But their safety comes from Mac’s relatively small market share, rather than some inherent strength of the operating system, which is just as vulnerable as a PC’s OS. As Apple grows, so does its vulnerability.