Most Common Mac Malware

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Over the years, malware targeting Macs has changed from marginal to the mainstream. Windows users always need to check malicious programs. 

Recently, it was discovered that millions of PCs are infected with ransomware, spyware and malware. However, in 2019, according to IT security experts, computers with MacOS on board were hit more than Windows PCs. 

While the Mac market share continues to rise, these numbers will keep increasing. In this article, we will review the most common Mac malware and Mac cyber attacks. 


Adware is the most common threat that’s affecting the Mac ecosystem. These applications display redundant ads or hijack one’s browser and redirect it to junk services.

A few years ago, an adware strain known as Shylayer took the world by storm because of its effective propagation wave depending on booby-trapped Adobe Flash Player updates. It was noticed on about 10% of all Macs. When inside a system, Shylayer redirects the victim’s default browser to fake search engines and downloads other malware payloads quietly. 


A crypto miner’s objective is to gobble up a computer’s processing tools to mine cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin without the knowledge of the user. OSX/LoudMiner is an example of attacks against Mac devices. Also known as Bird Miner, it was distributed via Trojan-infected copies of popular Virtual Studio Technology (VST) apps.


This is also a Mac cyber attack, which pretends to discover several performance and security issues to manipulate a Mac user into buying a license key. Some of the notorious rogue programs from this cesspool are Mac Cleanup Pro, Mac Auto Fixer and Advanced Mac Cleaner. 


These Mac security threats are sneaky apps that mostly tailgate into Macs alongside harmless software that’s promoted through multi-component installation packages. After gaining a base in a system, they collect confidential data such as credit card numbers, passwords and cryptocurrency wallet details. Consequently, this information is sent to a command server run by cybercriminals and hackers.


ThiefQuest is an Apple security threat, and it’s a tricky example of a Mac information stealer. Discovered in July 2020, it uses ransomware-style methods to smokescreen its data harvesting activity. 

How Mac Malware Spreads
  • Bundling: This technique is front and center in the majority of today’s Mac malware distribution schemes. Its logic includes the following: crooks wrap up dubious applications into legitimated software installers. This part is dominated by scams pushing the likes of the Shylayer adware through the Adobe Flash Player update. 

The default installations option includes an unwanted application. However, the user won’t know about it. Although this Adobe product is no longer supported in 2021, such campaigns are still very strong.

  • Pirated Software: Installing cracked versions of mainstream applications may be a wrong step because they may turn out to be malware. Cyber attackers can poison such software with malicious components so that freebie lovers get infected without knowing about it.
  • ’Your Mac is infected’ Trick: This exploits Mac users’ gullibility. Its scare component with deceptive alerts stating that the system is infected with viruses. Once the target is on the hook, a click on the ‘SCAN NOW’ button to know more about the infection will quickly pull scareware and adware into the Mac behind the scenes. These spoofed warnings are normally shown on earlier compromised websites or crafted malicious landing pages. 
  • Transmittable Torrents: The major popularity of P2P services such as torrents has a negative side. It baits cyber criminals who seek to expand their victim audiences. Malware camouflaging as torrent files with some amazing video content is a common infection tactic. Additionally, crooks may inject harmful code into legitimate torrent client installers.
  • Office macros: Microsoft Office macros streamline routine and iterative tasks to improve user experience. These entities may become building blocks of sneaky malware execution stratagems. 
  • Phishing: This old infection method centers on misleading emails that deceive Mac users into clicking a malicious link or launching a malware executable masquerading as a good file. With social engineering at its center, this hoax most times uses pressure and feigns urgency. 

For example, the message may state that the user has been charged for services they never bought. Nowadays, many phishing emails are in circulations that take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to make users slip up.  

Ways to Remove Mac Malware 
  • Quit the Malicious Process
    Go to Utilities > Activity Monitor and try to pinpoint the wrongdoing executable. It could use up more CPU and RAM than the other processes and has a suspicious icon next to it. If you find the culprit, click the Stop icon (X symbol) in the toolbar and select Force Quit.
  • Uninstall the Unwanted App
    Click Go in the Finder bar and select Applications. Spot a recently added app you do not remember installing and move it to the Trash.
  • Get Rid of Sketchy LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons
    Select the Go to Folder option in the Finder’s ‘Go’ pull-down menu, type “~/Library/LaunchAgents,” and hit Enter. Check your LaunchAgents folder for objects that look out of place and delete them. Use the same folder navigation procedure to browse to Library/LaunchDaemons and ~/Library/Application Support directories. Scroll down and try to identify rogue items in these paths as well. Delete them once found.
  • Vanquish Bad Login Items
    Head to System Preferences > Users & Groups. Click the Login Items tab, find the unwanted entry in the list, and click the ‘minus’ sign to eliminate it. Be advised that you’ll need to click the padlock icon at the bottom of the screen and enter your admin password to put these changes into effect.
  • Remove a Dubious Configuration Profile
    Go to System Preferences > Profiles. This item might be missing if no device profiles are installed in the system. If so, it is safe to proceed to the next step. If the Profiles option is there, click it, select the rogue item in the list and click the minus symbol at the bottom to get rid of it.
  • Empty the Trash
    Right-click the Trash icon in your Dock and select ‘Empty Trash’ in the context menu.

Most malware attacks occur because users click on links or download something they should have avoided. Nevertheless, simple research on the internet with basic security awareness and timely MacOS updates will keep you protected against Mac cyber security attacks. 

If you need a cybersecurity tool that can create a strong malware troubleshooting background, with the recent focus on ransomware countermeasures, choose Vicarius. Vicarius is a vulnerability management software that targets cybersecurity officers as well as IT managers and operators from the U.S. market. 


Photo by FUTURE on Unsplash

Written by Kent Weigle

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