Mac malware threats surged in 2020, but are still nowhere near Windows

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Malware developers ramped up the creation of malicious software targeting the Mac in 2020 compared to previous years, new data suggests.

Security researchers at AV-TEST GmbH logged 674,273 new samples of macOS malware in 2020, according to an AtlasVPN investigation. The researchers found 56,556 samples in 2019 and 92,570 in 2018.

Although the data only proves that more unique malware samples were identified, it does suggest that malware authors are continuing to turn their attention toward the Mac. Between 2019 and 2020, malware sample identification surged 1,092%.

The 674,273 samples detected in 2020 far eclipse the total 219,257 samples detected by AV-TEST GmbH between 2012 and 2019.

Of course, although the Mac malware threat is growing, it's still comparatively small. AV-TEST GmbH suggests that 91.05 million samples of Windows malware were detected in 2020, a record high and an increase from 89.07 million in 2019.

Going by those numbers, it means that Windows malware authors created an average of 249,452 new threats a day. Mac malware developers, on the other hand, made about 1,847 threats per day.

According to AtlasVPN, one of the contributors to the surge in both macOS and Windows malware development in the proliferation of ready-made code that can be easily tailored for specific attacks.

A Malwarebytes report from February 2020 indicated that development of macOS malware threats was outpacing Windows threats. The report suggested that Macs are becoming a sweeter target for attackers because of increased market share.

Earlier in 2021, Malwarebytes released a separate report that indicated malware detections were down on both macOS and Windows in 2020 compared to previous years.

Apple is currently in the midst of transferring its Mac lineup over to proprietary Apple Silicon chips, which have a number of security benefits and anti-malware mechanisms that Intel processors don't.

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