macOS malware shoots up 1,000% in 2020

Are you protecting your Mac yet?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Cybercriminals reportedly created more macOS malware in 2020 than from 2012 to 2019 combined. The days when Mac users could happily assume they weren’t in danger from hackers are long over.

But the situation remains far worse for Windows users. Researchers found 135 times as many Windows malware samples last year as ones targeting macOS.

2020 was a banner year for macOS malware

The development of macOS malware went up over 1,000% last year, according to Atlas VPN. There were 674,273 new malware samples found in 2020 compared to 56,556 samples detected the previous year. Previously, the highest number was 92,570 samples discovered in 2018.

“Contributing to this record surge in threats is the fact that new malicious software is now easier to engineer than ever before,” said Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN. “Nowadays, hackers do not even need advanced programming skills since 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.”

The assault continues in 2021. For example, researchers recently found Silver Sparrow, the first malware that targets both Intel-based Macs as well ones running the new Apple M1 processor. There is a solution though: antivirus software.

Windows is more of a target

While macOS users certainly need to be cautious, they can take some small comfort in knowing that cybercriminals still put most of their focus on Windows. Researchers discovered more than 91 million malware samples in 2020 that target Microsoft’s platform.

And that was just a small year-over-year increase — nearly as much Windows malware was found the year before.

The malware data comes from AV-Test GmbH, an independent research institute for IT security.