The days of Mac users blithely using their computers and not worrying about security issues are gone. Over the past few years the amount of malware that targets Mac users has proliferated. (Malware is a portmanteau of malicious software.) Your best protection against malware is to have a good backup system in place and to be cautious about what files you download and install onto your Mac. Another reminder of the need to be vigilant occurred this past weekend when the first ransomware targeting Macs was discovered. Ransomware tries to encrypt all of the files on your Mac and then literally requires you to pay a ransom to regain access to your own computer and data. However, if you have a backup then you could erase your Mac and restore from your backup, rather than pay the ransom.
Ransomware has been around for over 25 years, but it has proliferated in the past few years. Ransomware has received a lot of coverage in the mainstream press over the past few years including on the evening news as well as magazine and newspaper stories. In February 2016, some computers at a Los Angeles hospital were infected by ransomware and the hospital decided the most expedient way to resolve the issue was to pay the $17,000 ransom.
This first ransomware, which is capable of infecting a Mac, was discovered in a maliciously altered copy of Transmission, which is a legitimate Mac application. If you do not have and do not use Transmission you’re safe. My reading on this matter seems to indicate that this weekend, Apple updated XProtect to search for this ransomware and alert you if it detects it. XProtect is a security feature of the Mac operating system, OS X. It appears that OS X versions 10.6.8 and higher are capable of protecting Macs against this ransomware.
In addition to having both on-site and off-site backups, another good way to protect your Mac against malware is to install MalwareBytes Anti-Malware for Mac. MalwareBytes Anti-Malware for Mac is a free application. One limitation is that it doesn’t actively scan your Mac. Instead, it has to be manually opened, updated to the most current version and then you must click the Scan button to initiate a scan. MalwareBytes Anti-Malware for Mac is a relatively young Mac product. I suspect they are working a version that includes these features and more.
Please backup your Mac regularly and be careful when you download and install software on your Mac.