Mac computers have a reputation of being more secure than Windows devices. However, Macs do get targeted by malicious software, and as more people use Macs, they become an increasingly attractive target for malicious groups who try to profit from your data. The Mac operating system has safeguards built in. However, modern third-party endpoint security solutions, provide additional layers of protection to keep your important information safe.

While most of the threats found on Macs are potentially unwanted programmes (PUPs) and adware, detection of harmful malicious software on Macs increased 61% in 2020 according to MalwareBytes. Recently, malware called Silver Sparrow has infected a large number of Macs, including Macs with the new M1 processor. Security experts do not currently know the origins of Silver Sparrow, how it spread so successfully, or what the goal of its developers are. Apple has responded to Silver Sparrow and has stopped it spreading. However, this is after tens of thousands of Macs were infected. It doesn’t take much to imagine how inconvenient it would be if your Mac was infected by new malware which stole and encrypted your important files and documents before Apple was able to intervene. In 2020, ThiefQuest, also known as EvilQuest, was detected on Mac computers. ThieftQuest finds its way onto Macs through poisoned software downloads. Once a Mac has been infected, ThiefQuest can then be instructed by a command-and-control server, send copies of your files to its developers, encrypt your files, installs keylogging software, and infect other executable files.

Apple has built a number of safeguards into the Mac operating system which provides baseline protection. Macs have built in anti-virus called XProtect to automatically check downloaded files against a limited list of known malwares. However, this basic protection doesn’t scan your drives for malware or monitor the behaviour of programmes to detect potentially malicious activity. Also, the XProtect definitions are not as comprehensive as third-party endpoint security solutions and aren’t updated as regularly either. MacOS also includes Gatekeeper which is designed to keep malware out of your Mac by checking that it is from a trusted source, doesn’t contain malicious content, and hasn’t been altered. While Gatekeeper appears to be a sound technical solution, it can easily be overridden, allowing users to inadvertently run unwanted and malicious apps. Another security feature is isolating apps installed from the App Store in their own “sandbox”. This makes it difficult for them to interfere with system resources, and access files and your Mac’s microphone and webcam without permission. To try and protect users from phishing scams, which is where websites try to trick users into giving up personal information, including usernames and passwords, credit card details, or information about themselves, Safari includes an optional feature called Fraudulent Website Warnings to alert user to potentially harmful sites.

Third-party endpoint security solutions provide additional protection, over and above what is built into MacOS. With large databases of definitions that are continuously updated and heuristic analysis, which monitors the activity of apps running on your computer, third-party solutions are able to detect a far greater range of threats than Apple’s safeguards do. Third-party solutions can prevent the spread of malware that is harmful to other platforms as well. Along with harmful malware, third-party solutions can detect and stop annoying adware and potentially unwanted programmes from finding their way onto your Mac. Additionally, not all software is compatible with Apple’s XProtect which means that not all downloaded files are screened against its definitions. Users are the largest cause of data loss and malware infection. Users can override some of Apple’s safeguards, leading to potentially harmful malware being installed, along with passwords and data being stolen. Third-party solutions can provide a layer of protection against users overriding warning. With comprehensive databases of potentially dangerous websites that are updated frequently, third-party solutions are able to provide a wider range of protection against phishing and other harmful websites.

With the increasing prevalence of Malware target and being detected on Mac computers, it seems prudent to run a modern endpoint security solution to provide a layer of comprehensive protection. An endpoint security solution is an important part of ensuring that you retain access to your important data while protecting it from cyber criminals.