Malware threats against macOS surged over 1000% in 2020

macOS Mojave
macOS Mojave (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Malware developed to target macOS surged by over 1000% in 2020.
  • 674,273 new malware samples were found in the year.
  • Windows still sees 135 times more malware than macOS.

It looks like the Mac is experiencing a malware revolution.

Atlas VPN, a popular VPN service, conducted an investigation on the state of macOS malware and found that development on malware for the Mac jumped by over 1000% in 2020.

According to the Atlas VPN investigation, the development of macOS malware surged by 1,092% in 2020. To be exact, 674,273 new malware samples were found in 2020, when there were only 56,556 samples detected in 2019 ... The malware development data was extracted on March 17, 2020, from AV-TEST GmbH, an independent research institute for IT security.

As explained in the report, malware is generally a catch-all phrase that covers a range of different threats:

Malware, or malicious software, is a collective term for all kinds of threats. Microsoft lumps malware into thirteen distinct categories: backdoors, downloaders, droppers, exploits, hack tools, macro viruses, obfuscators, password stealers, ransomware, rogue security software, trojans, trojan clickers, and worms.

That historic high of 674,273 new malware samples in 2020 is alarming, as the report found only 219,257 total samples developed between 2012 and 2019.

Interestingly, if we add up all the new malware since the beginning of measurement in 2012, we get 219,257 samples, which is still well below last year's numbers. From 2012 until 2019, new malware's development reached the maximum high of 92,570 samples per year. In 2020, cybercriminals geared more of their attention towards Apple's desktop OS and created an average of 1,847 threats every day.

While the surge targeting the Mac is concerning, malware development for the Mac still pales in comparison to what is developed for Windows. According to the data, there were over 135 times more threats developed for Windows than there were for macOS.

Data shows that a record-high of 91.05 million new Windows malware samples were discovered in 2020. In other words, cybercriminals developed an average of 249,452 threats per day ... It is clear that the scale of new threats is on a different level compared to macOS. There were over 135 times more Windows threats than there was macOS in 2020.

If you want to ensure your Mac is protected against malware, check out our list of the Best Antivirus Software on Mac in 2021.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.