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Are Macs More Secure? It Depends.

Article by Jason Clause on February 14, 2024
Jason Clause
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Macs have plenty of built-in security, but it is often not enough.

Key Takeaways:

  • Macs have a reputation for being more secure
  • This is why they are becoming more popular in business
  • But there’s been a sharp uptick in attacks
  • Built-in protections are a good start…
  • However, sometimes Apple is its own worst enemy

We’ve all heard the claims that Macs are more secure than Windows machines (PCs). But are Macs more secure? Or is it just a matter of Operating System (OS) popularity? Myths and misconceptions can be dangerous. 

The simple truth? Macs are less likely to be attacked simply because there are fewer of them. That being said, Macs are safer than PCs because the Mac OS is Unix-based, making it more difficult to exploit. Apple also controls hardware and software tightly and builds in protections and security that make them less vulnerable. 

About 55% of small and medium-sized businesses and 76% of large enterprises use Apple devices because of their reputation of reliability and a long usable life. Security also looms large. Research shows that about 39% of malware infections occur on PCs, while only 6% affect Macs. But this only tells a small part of the story. 

In this article, we’ll talk about Apple’s built-in security features, the role of third-party antivirus software, Mac’s vulnerabilities, best practices to keep them secure, and how complacency is your worst enemy – which is why you need an IT managed services provider to keep your Mac environment protected.

Built-in Mac security features – how effective are they?

Make no mistake. Mac security is your responsibility. Even Apple’s software head admits that malware levels are unacceptable. One way Apple fights against hackers is to control hardware and software tightly. 

Apple offers robust baked-in protection with three levels of security, including:

  • Built-in antivirus software called XProtect that detects and blocks known malware. When an app launches, the software checks for malware, and if the app has been changed, it blocks the software, and removes it if malware is detected.
  • Gatekeeper is designed to prevent users from installing malware, checking apps to make sure they are verified by Apple and inspected for malicious code, and preventing installation if it is found. 
  • Regular security updates are pushed out regularly.
  • Data protection provides advanced security features.
  • Flushing Flash is a gateway for malware. Apple hasn’t pre-installed Flash since 2010 and stopped supporting it in early 2020. Adobe no longer supports it. And think about disabling JavaScript as well.

Apple also has added a new layer of security with iOS 16, with Lockdown Mode in case of a cyberattack. It blocks certain features and is considered an extreme level of protection for those who face the most sophisticated threats.

Optimize your security strategy with an expert partner. Endsight plans and implements cybersecurity solutions for ultimate peace of mind. Learn more.

What about third-party antivirus software?

While Apple has always focused on security, the built-in features aren’t enough to completely protect your Mac from malware launched by today’s sophisticated cybercriminals. For example, Xprotect doesn’t identify as much potential malware as third-party software. Additional security measures are a must: between 2019 and 2020, the number of severe malware attacks on Macs increased by 61%.

Among the most common malware targeting Macs in 2023 is Exploit HVNC to remotely control your Mac, ShadowVault, which grabs passwords and crypto and credit card data, and JokerSpy, which allows an attacker to get control of your system and steals credentials and crypto wallets. 

Bad actors use the usual methods to invade computers and can even get in via USB and Thunderbolt ports when you plug in a device. And sometimes bugs can inadvertently provide an opening.

Cybercriminals exploit a bug

In 2021, a bug was discovered allowing cybercriminals to create malware to take control of Macs, bypassing all of the built-in protections. Apple deployed a patch to fix the bug, but not before hackers used it for months, affecting unknown numbers of Mac users. The malware in question was Shlayer, which would spread infection via search engine results.

Another malware called Silver Sparrow was detected on about 30,000 computers, while another piece of malware was explicitly written for the new M1 processors. 

So, how do I keep my Mac environment secure?

Apple offers these tips for keeping your Macs secure:

  • Require the use of secure passwords that can’t be easily guessed
  • Require creation of passkeys using Touch ID or Face ID
  • Require users to log in to prevent unauthorized access
  • Require to log out or lock when a user steps away from their computer
  • Have a small number of administrative users who have privileges that include creating, managing, and deleting users, installing, and updating software, and altering settings.

Human error is the primary cybersecurity threat to your business. In fact, it contributes to 95% of all breaches. This means it is imperative to continuously train employees, empower them to detect threats and report them and to practice good cyber hygiene.

The role of an IT managed services provider in Mac security

One of the top benefits of partnering with an IT managed services provider is improved security. Your company is likely among the 52% that say cyber threats today are too sophisticated for their internal staff to handle on their own. On top of that, 55% of IT leaders say that other project work has been stalled due to cybersecurity issues. 

Endsight: The cybersecurity experts you need

Endsight is an acknowledged leader in cybersecurity. Year after year, we’ve won a CRN Managed Service Provider 500 award in the Security 100 category. We provide complete technology support solutions to create optimal IT management and human-friendly technical support with cybersecurity experts that keep you one step ahead of attackers. 

Our core values bring not only peace of mind when it comes to cybersecurity protection, but we also offer an honest partnership, commitment to your long-term success, and unparalleled, dependable service. Reach out today.

Cybercriminals are everywhere, watching, waiting, and ready to crawl in through any crack. Build a strong defense only experts can provide by partnering with Endsight. Time is not on your side. Reach out today.

Tags: cybersecurity, Cyber Security, Are Mac's more secure?, Macs security

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