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Ransomware Hits the Mac OS

Until very recently, serious malware (like ransomware) was very rarely seen on a Mac "in the wild". The nasty viruses that infect not only desktop computers, but crawl across corporate networks and onto file servers was reserved almost exclusively for Windows users. Ransomware usually hides itself within somewhat legitimate software installers, and once on a computer it begins locking documents with encryption keys. The only fix is to delete all of those files and restore them from backup. And if you don't have backups, the only other option is to pay the ransom demands. 

On March 4th, security company Palo Atlo Networks discovered ransomware code-named KeRanger embedded in an application called Transmission. Transmission is a peer-to-peer bit torrent client that is available from the Mac App Store and signed by Apple. Version 2.90 of this software somehow became infected and slipped thru the vetting process. 

So what can you do to prepare for the increase in adware, malware, and viruses on the Mac?

1- Avoid junkware and free software:
Much of the adware we've seen in recent years comes wrapped up in junkware like free fonts, coupon tools, and other "free" software. Stick to professional software from known, trusted developers. And properly vet any software you're considering installing. 

2- Avoid peer-to-peer sharing:
Software and services that involve peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing technology in almost all cases has no business purpose, and opens you up to all kinds of nastyness. Bit torrent sharing of "data" is a risky endeavor and should be avoided.

3- BACK UP!!
Backups are critical. Ransomware leaves you no choice but to pay up, or restore from backup. Be prepared! In an effort to ensure victims pay the ransom, KeRanger malware apparently attempts to also infect Time Machine backups. DesignCorp strongly recommends backing up to a cloud backup service, in addition to local disk backups. 

4- Install Virus Protection
Mac users have been spoiled by not being targets for so long, and many of us have skipped installing virus protection, leaving the protection up to Apple's built-in Gatekeeper, and just hoping that we won't be a target. Those days are gone, and unfortunately, along with growing popularity, comes the headaches of malware. Consider installing a good Mac security suite to protect you from adware, viruses, and other malicious activity. If you need help finding a strong but light-weight virus protection software, DesignCorp can help. 

So be prepared, and be vigilant! 


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