Ever since the hilarious, popular, and enormously successful Get a Mac campaign a decade ago, Macs have enjoyed the reputation of being impenetrable by viruses, malware, and the like.
By and large, that’s been true, but as more and more people choose the Mac OSX over Windows, Apple products are becoming more vulnerable to hacking than ever. Should be concerned? More importantly, how can you protect yourself?
If you’ve just purchased a new Mac, these are questions you need to be answered, and we’ve got your guide. Keeping reading for more help in understanding what’s at stake and learning how to prevent the worst-case scenario from playing out at home.
Rising Popularity of iMacs
Despite concerns over Apple’s ability to keep growing after Steve Jobs’ death, iMacs are more beautiful and powerful than ever. The most recent iMac Pro, for example, supports a 5K, popular among pro editors, but it’s also the first to exist on workstation-level processors, meaning it has an abundance of excess processor cores.
All this power and design makes it no secret that Macs are popular. Wildly popular, in fact. What’s interesting to note, however, is that Windows, by and large, have the lion’s share of the PC market.
The Problem with Being Popular
What this has meant for Apple products is that most nefarious attacks have been directed at the segment of the population where they’d do the most damage: Microsoft. Despite Macs having recognized vulnerabilities, fewer hackers have approached them.
There’s simply less payoff for the effort, especially when you consider it’s Windows devices and not Mac devices that are used for government purposes and by most major corporations.
The Trojans Are Still Here
If recent events are any indication, however, there’s cause for concern. Some reports indicate exponential Mac malware growth in the last few years. Recently, for example, Mac had to deal with the OXW/Pinhead-B Trojan.
The malware was found to be viewing monitors without the Mac user’s knowledge. It could take screenshots of the user’s activity (including sensitive information such as banking information and passwords) as well as dip into user’s files.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first attack, and it won’t be the last.
The Stakes are High
Globally, computer hacking has become a tremendous concern regarding international affairs and security, corporate security, and personal security. We’ve all heard horror stories of what can happen if somebody steals your identity; unfortunately, it’s become all too common.
Because we rely heavily on our PC operating systems to shop online, send sensitive personal information such as medical records, and take care of online banking, it’s especially important that our computers are safe from attack.
Not Just Our Personal Computers
Unfortunately, it’s not just our personal computers that are suspect. New headlines tell us daily that our big brother fears might just be well founded, with government agencies, corporations, and hackers able to break into our email accounts, listen in on us through our smart televisions, and monitor more data than we ever thought possible thanks to social media profiles.
How You Use It
One of the biggest problems facing iMac users is, in fact, user-driven. Trojans, for example, have to be downloaded by an unsuspecting user. They don’t just randomly show up! One of the ways Apple has helped combat this is to pre-install Flash and other media players onto its devices since these have been popular sources of malware attacks in the past.
It stands to reason then that one of the most important things Apple users can do to maximize their online security is to only download software directly from the vendor. If there’s a doubt, don’t do it!
Apple has generously created a GateKeep system that will not allow you to download a new software file unless it’s been digitally signed by a legitimate vendor. This goes a long way in keeping your personal information safe!
It’s long been recognized that Apple’s Unix-style system makes it more difficult to hack. This has largely played out. However, Apple has instituted several other changes in response to recent security concerns. Here are a few:
Let’s Keep Things Separate
Approved apps that Apple allows to download are sandboxed, which means they’re not allowed to mess around in critical system components, where they don’t need to be. They do, in fact, play in their own sandboxes!
Safari, the browser for Macs, utilizes an anti-phishing technology that helps users identify fraudulent or suspect websites by flashing warnings and disabling pages. Plus, many plug-ins, including QuickTime and Oracle Java, won’t run unless you’re using the latest version. This helps to keep your computer less vulnerable to attack.
In fact, one of the most concerning things you can do as a Mac user thinks that, just because you have a Mac and you’ve heard about people who have been decades-long Mac users without problems, that you’re safe.
Here are three steps to take to help you maximize your online security:
1. Watch Those Plug-ins
Keep your plug-ins up to date! We’ve already mentioned that Apple won’t let you run them if they aren’t up to date, but make sure you don’t find a workaround. Plug-ins are some of the most vulnerable points in your operating system, so it’s important to be proactive and take advantage of their maker’s most recent protections and patches.
2. Don’t Go Phishing
If the email you just opened wants you to enter a password or install something, stop and delete that email! You’ve likely encountered a phishing email, and unfortunately, this isn’t the good kind of fishing.
If you’re especially concerned, you can take advantage of software such as XFence or BlockBlock. Both are free and can help you block malware, even if you’ve accidentally clicked something you shouldn’t have.
3. Say No to WiFi
Finally, you should avoid connecting to public wifi networks. It’s plausible that a hacker may use one to spy on you, gaining access to sensitive information. Particularly nefarious hackers can even set up hotspots that look just like the Starbucks or hotel you’re at, and once you’re connected, they have access to everything.
While it’s fun to stay connected, it’s safer to avoid public wifi altogether.
Install an Antivirus
Ultimately, if you want to go as far as possible to ensure your security on your new iMac, the best thing to do is to install an antivirus. Here are a few we recommend:
Available directly through the Mac app store (for a one-time and not ongoing cost, which we love), Antivirus Zap is highly loved by Mac enthusiasts. If you want to install it, you’d be one of many--it’s a go-to choice.
Part of the reason for that is, thanks to its available in the app store, it’s very easy to access and install. This is in stark contrast to some of the other questionable antivirus sites that cause you to believe you might be downloading malware and not the antimalware.
The one downside to this app is that it runs only on demand. You’ll have to remember to use it regularly to scan for viruses. Plus, it won’t automatically delete what it finds; you’ll have to do that manually (it’s easy).
Mac Internet Security X9 from Intego
Often recommended by Mac experts, this one from Intego ranks well in common tests. It’s a bit of a hassle to install, but it’s extremely effective. Plus, it provides default real-time protection and scheduled scans. You can also switch off that Apple feature that alerts you when there’s non-Mac malware being installed.
Norton Security Standard for Mac
Let’s just get the downside to this one out right away: it’s expensive. Like, ten times the cost of Antivirus Zap mentioned above. However, Norton is one of the oldest and most trusted names in the business and, if you’re looking for the ultimate in peace of mind, you can’t go wrong.
The app runs in the background and will ask you to add two Safari plugins after you’ve installed it. Safe Web will help you keep away from nefarious websites, and Identity Safe will help you keep your passwords out of the hands of hackers.
It’s quick at its job and effective. We’re fans.
The Final Word
The first step to maximizing the security of your new iMac is to recognize the severity of the internet security problem and to realize that Macs are, in fact, vulnerable.
Download antivirus software and enjoy the protection Apple is building into its product, but also take the extra steps to make sure you stay away from potential malware: don’t download questionable software or visit questionable sites. As it turns out, you are as important in the war against hackers as your computer!