More Mac malware detected in 2020 than ever before

Thursday, 25 March, 2021

More Mac malware detected in 2020 than ever before

The development of macOS malware increased by 1092% in 2020, with 674,273 new malware samples found in 2020, compared to the 56,556 samples detected in 2019. The malware development data was extracted on 17 March 2020 from AV-TEST, an independent research institute for IT security.

Malware, or malicious software, is a collective term for all kinds of threats. Microsoft has placed malware into 13 distinct categories: backdoors, downloaders, droppers, exploits, hack tools, macro viruses, obfuscators, password stealers, ransomware, rogue security software, trojans, trojan clockers and worms.

The development of malicious software for Apple’s desktop operating system macOS increased in 2020, with an Atlas VPN investigation revealing that the total amount of malware detected since the beginning of measurement in 2012 is 219,257 samples, well below last year’s figures. From 2012 until 2019, new malware development reached a maximum high of 92,570 samples per year.

In 2020, cybercriminals focused on Apple’s desktop OS and created an average of 1847 threats every day. Whenever data breaches or significant cyber incidents occur, it is almost certain that some type of malware was involved. Often, malicious software is used to steal data and user credentials. Then, hackers request a ransom from the victim company to get back the data, or criminals will release the data to the public. Businesses often agree to the demands, to protect their reputation.

Contributing to this record surge in threats is the fact that new malicious software is now easier to engineer. Now, hackers don’t need advanced programming skills, as they can purchase a ready-made malware code, tailor it to their needs with a little bit of coding and establish a completely new threat.

Alongside developing malware for macOS, hackers also abused Windows users more often in 2020, with a record-high 91.05 million new Windows malware samples discovered in 2020. This figure amounts to an average of 249,452 threats per day.

The scale of new threats is on a different level compared to macOS, with over 135 times more Windows threats than macOS threats in 2020. For Windows, the number of new threats is climbing at a slower pace, but it still increased by 1.98 million in 2020, representing a 2.22% increase from the year before. In short, the data reveals that the cyber threat landscape for both operating systems is worse than ever before.

As malware permeates businesses in every sector, the costs related to these incidents continue to rise as well. Findings reveal that cybercrime cost the world more than $1 trillion in 2020 — around 1% of global GDP. The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to work remotely, which also created a huge attack surface for cybercriminals.

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