Cyberattacks have grown in scope and tactics, and Apple devices — often, but incorrectly, thought of as ‘immune’ to viruses and other threats — are becoming bigger targets.
In February, researchers issued a second warning about Silver Sparrow malware, which first came to light in November 2021 on Apple’s latest M1 chip. As of mid-February, Silver Sparrow had already infected over 29,000 macOS devices in 153 countries. Although it reportedly hasn’t delivered any malicious payloads, researchers called Silver Sparrow “a reasonably serious threat.”
Last year brought a slew of other Mac threats and attacks. In December, Reuters reported that the iPhones of at least nine U.S. State Department employees were hacked with spyware. In July, the Mac-targeting XLoader malware — available for as little as $49 — was discovered. Early May found Apple releasing emergency fixes to its operating systems on iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches, which came on the heels of an update Apple issued one month earlier for those same devices to fix a vulnerability.
These developments should serve as a wake-up call to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that better data protection is required for Apple devices, which are at greater risk than ever from cyberattacks.
Mac-targeting malware may historically have been uncommon, but that’s simply no longer the case, explains Kevin Reed, CISO at Acronis. “The market share of Macs has grown and it has become profitable to create malware for it. In the past, this simply was not cost-justified.’’
Ransomware remains the biggest threat to Apple devices, followed by banker trojans, Reed says. Targeted malware from remote access tools/trojans (RATs) is another significant concern because often an attacker can control a system without a user’s knowledge. “In some sense, Macs are more vulnerable here, because not all developers provide protection for them,’’ according to Reed.
There is good news, says Reed. “iOS devices are more secure in terms of [attackers attempting to deliver] off-the-shelf malware. With Android, attacks happen due to ‘alternative stores’ and direct downloads, which is not possible on iOS; hence, low-end malware is rare.”
The other good news is that Apple has become a co-chair of the Cyber Readiness Institute, which helps SMBs improve security practices with free resources and tools. With more businesses letting employees work in a hybrid model, there is a growing need to tighten security on mobile devices.
How SMBs should respond
First and foremost, SMBs should ensure they are applying patches across all endpoints on the network to fix vulnerabilities that are discovered seemingly daily. The Foundry 2021 Security Priorities Study found that unpatched software is one of the leading causes of security incidents.
However, patches can only do so much if security gaps are left open. Effective security may be a struggle for SMBs, which typically have limited budgets and in-house expertise. Because they are focused on maintaining IT infrastructure on a daily basis, managing patches across multiple security systems is not always treated as high-priority.
The next step is developing vulnerability assessments. SMBs need visibility into their infrastructure, which requires having a current inventory of all devices and programs. This strategy will help detect hosts that are vulnerable, and automated patch updates can then be applied accordingly.
Make sure antivirus and data protection software is in place to protect macOS workstations, just as you would secure your Windows PCs. Extend protection to mobile devices with a robust backup and recovery solution.
Finally, educate users on the risks of downloading apps from a third-party store and advise them to trust their gut. If apps are asking for information users are not comfortable giving, they shouldn’t provide it.
Discover how to better secure your Mac users. Visit Acronis.