Mac Had More Malware Detections than PC in 2019

Mac Virus Alert Featured

For a long time, the Mac computer was known as the mainstream operating system of choice if you didn’t want malware. It was even a marketing point in the early “Mac vs. PC” advertisements, where the Mac character would boast about the lack of viruses found on Macs.

Unfortunately, that trend came to an end in 2019. Malwarebytes keeps a log on how many infections it detects per operating system, and for the first time ever, Macs saw a higher infection rate than PCs. It’s not totally bad news, however; it’s still somewhat true that Macs are safer from malware attacks than PCs.

What Happened to Macs?

The results come in from Malwarebytes’ State of Malware report. On page 24, the report details a chart comparing Windows malware detection to Mac:

Mac Spike Chart

This shows that Macs have, as a whole, seen twice the amount of infections than PC. This is a huge jump from 2018, where Mac had just under the number of infections than Windows.

Malwarebytes made the point that this isn’t due to Mac users adopting Malwarebytes more. If Mac users installed the software more often in 2019, it’s only natural for the number of detections to go up. That’s why Malwarebytes lists the number of infections detected per endpoint – A.K.A, each computer.

What Caused this Spike?

Malwarebytes predicts that the reason the Mac suffered in 2019 is due to macOS’s increased market share:

This is likely because, with increasing market share in 2019, Macs became more attractive targets to cybercriminals. In addition, macOS’s built-in security systems have not cracked down on adware and PUPs to the same degree that they have malware, leaving the door open for these borderline programs to infiltrate.

As such, while Mac malware was once not worth the time for malicious developers, the rise in macOS users has made it more appealing. As such, the gap between Windows and Mac in terms of malware occurrence isn’t as large as it was when the Mac vs. PC adverts aired.

What Kind of Malware Infected macOS?

Remember when we said that Macs are still a little safer overall than PCs? That’s because the actual malware that’s being distributed around Macs aren’t nearly as dangerous as the ones on Windows.

Mac Spike Malware

macOS malware mostly consists of adware and PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). While these are annoying, that’s all they really do: annoy you. It’s a far cry from Windows’ problem with ransomware and cryptominers, which go a lot further than being “annoying.”

What Should Mac Users Do Now?

If you’re using macOS because it’s “virus-free,” you may want to reconsider this stance. While it may have been true once upon a time, it’s no longer safe to rely purely on Mac to protect you. Be sure to check out our article on whether Macs need antivirus software for some top software picks to get you started.

Attack of the Macs

Macs used to enjoy low virus rates, to the point where it became a part of Apple’s marketing. These days, however, malware developers have caught up to it, and Mac users need to install a good antivirus to keep themselves safe moving forward.

Does this report change your view on how virus-free the Mac is? Let us know below.

Image credit: Computer showing virus alert on screen by DepositPhotos

Simon Batt
Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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