Mac Malware Threats Outpace Windows: Report

The platform is growing and with it the size of the threats

What: A security software company found that the number of Mac threats was, in 2019, more than those found on Windows systems.

How: Malwarebytes Labs surveys its own customer’s systems to derive this report data and notes that it’s both a product of increased market share and, perhaps, a lack of effort on Apple’s part to block certain kinds of threats.

Why Do You Care: The image of the Mac as an untouchable system is likely being put to rest. 

MacBook
Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Here’s the good news for Apple fans. The Mac is slowly, but surely growing market share. It still trails well-behind Windows, but jumped almost three percent since late last year. The bad news? Success also makes the Mac a more attractive target for malware purveyors.

According to Malwarebytes Lab’s 2020 State of Malware Report, the Mac has, for the first time ever, outpaced Windows PCs in number of threats detected per endpoint.

The anti-malware software company surveyed consumer and business customers systems running their software and found “a significant rise in the overall prevalence of Mac threats in 2019, with an increase of over 400 percent from 2018.” In 2018, Mac threat detection per endpoints was at 4.8. It jumped to 11 in 2019. Windows threat detections per endpoints was 5.8 in 2019.

However, even that rise might point to something other than the Mac being a less safe environment. Malwarebytes Labs wrote that “You could argue—validly—that part of this was due to a corresponding increase in the total number of Mac endpoints running Malwarebytes software.”

The news, though, wasn’t much better on the adware side (the stuff that comes through Web browsers). Malwarebytes Labs said they saw 24 million Windows adware detections and 30 million Mac detections.

The attacks on Windows and Mac machines, however, differ significantly. Malwarebytes wrote that while Windows threats are mostly classified as traditional malware, “most Mac threats, and certainly the most prevalent ones of 2019, are families of adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).”

The security software company contends this is due, in part, to macOS’s built-in security not cracking down on adware and PUPs “to the same degrees that they have malware.”

It’s all just another reminder that if you own a computer, or really any kind of technology, you can’t assume one platform, or another, will protect you on its own.