One of the biggest selling points of Apple’s Mac and MacBook ranges is that they’re nearly completely free from viruses. That common conception has been challenged this year, though, as the Mac OS operating system has experienced its first cases of ‘ransomware’.
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Ransomware is a special type of virus that, once it’s worked its way onto your computer, holds your files hostage. It then begins to delete them, deleting more important files as time goes on, until you pay the demanded ransom. They're not uncommon on Windows PCs, but examples are now springing up that affect Mac OS, too.
Mac torrent client Transmission has been targeted by malware writers, including with a piece of ransomware called Keydnap.
Once installed and executed Keydnap steals user data by accessing your Keychain – the database of passwords and user names that you use on your computer.
The hack was detected within hours of the breach, which happened in 2016.
In 2016, ransomware going by the name of ‘KeRanger’ also targeted Mac OS via Transmission. Its creators hacked into Transmission’s official legitimate website and replaced the standard download client with an infected one.
Taking advantage of the trusting and carefree nature of Mac users when it comes to downloading new files, many users downloaded it without suspecting anything was awry. However KeRanger would then lock files that it analysed as important and show a pop-up demanding the payment of $400 via BitCoin (a heavily encrypted digital currency) for their safe return.
How can I avoid Mac ransomware?
Historically it’s been easy to conflate Macs being extremely unlikely to contract viruses with Macs being immune to viruses.
The only reason 99.9% of viruses are targeted at Windows computers is that there are simply so many more of them out there. Every big corporation and company around the world relies on Windows to operate – a virus tailored for that operating system is far more likely to cause disruption and chaos than one targeted at Mac OS.
This isolated incident is no reason to panic, it simply means you should exercise a little more caution in the future when downloading and installing programs. Check the source, make sure you’ve clicked the right link and be careful to read the T&Cs.
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