While ransomware has been around for some time, it has never appeared to pose a threat to Apple’s Mac computers. That recently changed with the first attack of its kind last month. Ransomware is a malicious software that, once downloaded, essentially locks important files on a computer and then prompts users to pay a fee to have those files unlocked. There have undoubtedly been attempts to target Mac users in this way in the past, but this incident involving KeRanger software transmitted through the peer-to-peer file sharing network BitTorrent was the first successful one.
The attack was not contained until after approximately 6500 Mac users had downloaded the malicious KeRanger software. In the scheme of things, that number is quite low. The incident, however, proves that Mac users aren’t immune to this type of threat. As John Bambeneck of Fidelis Cybersecurity notes, “It’s a small number but these things always start small and ramp up huge. There’s a lot of Mac users out there and a lot of money to be made.” In this case, Palo Alto Networks, fortunately, detected the ransomware quickly, which is why Apple was able to promptly neutralise the problem.
In the future, however, ransomware attacks on Macs may become more subtle. Apple reports that it has increased its security measures and revoked the digital certificate that was responsible for launching the KeRanger software. While the 6500 or so affected Mac users hardly compares to the nearly 9 million annual attacks on Windows systems, representatives for anti-virus software Symantec warn that “Mac users should not be complacent” and ensure they have the latest version of the operating system installed on their devices and up-to-date virus protection.