The company's 2020 State of Malware Report found that Mac detections per endpoint more than doubled last year.
Mac detections per endpoint increased from 4.8 in 2018 to a whopping 11.0 in 2019, a figure that is nearly double the same statistic for Windows. This means that the average number of threats detected on a Mac is not only on the rise, but has surpassed Windows—by a great deal. This is likely because, with increasing market share in 2019, Macs became more attractive targets to cybercriminals. In addition, macOS’ 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. Further, for the first time ever, Mac threats appeared at the top of Malwarebytes’ overall threat detections. Two Mac threats—NewTab and PCVARK—showed up in second and third place in our list of the most prevalent detections across all platforms.
Most Mac threats are adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) which are less dangerous than traditional malware more commonly found on Windows. In particular one Mac adware threat called NewTab was detected nearly 30 million times in 2019. NewTab apps are spread though fake flight or package tracking pages, fake maps, or fake directions pages. Once installed the apps attempt to redirect web browser searches to earn illicit affiliate revenue.
The second most detected threat was apps from PCVARK, the developer behind PUPs like Advanced Mac Cleaner and Mac Adware Cleaner. Check out the chart below for the top Mac detections in 2019.
While these threats aren't as harmful as traditional malware, Malwarebytes says that they are becoming a much larger and more noticeable nuisance for Mac users.
These families are becoming more and more aggressive, displaying malicious and persistent behaviors to trick users into a false sense of security. Meanwhile, straight-forward malicious behavior from Mac files is increasing year-over-year, with more deceptive techniques to evade Apple’s rather stringent eye.
To determine if you have any of these apps installed on your Mac, you can run the free Malwarebytes scanner or use a similar offering from Sophos, Avast, Kaspersky, Norton, Trend Micro, and others.