Return of the Mac and the Beginning of Security?

Posted by Darragh Kelly on 2015-09-25 14:30:00

At June’s Info Security Europe event in London I got asked by several attendees about our tech offering in regards to Mac, or at least how does Bitdefender see the Mac playing field. Add to that the fact that I am looking to get a Mac myself, my interest was piqued.

So, being a marketer – and a security marketer at that! –, I decide to contact our Mac security tech team and get the inside line – an understanding on the growing demand for Mac and its evolving security landscape.

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Growing market share

The Mac market share continues to grow in an overall PC market that is contracting considerably. To put this into context, according to IDC, last quarter (Q2 2015):

  • Apple was the only one of IDC’s top six global PC makers to grow in shipments, registering
  • The Mac market share registered 16% global growth Year on Year (YoY)
  • The PC market is contracting globally at 12% YoY

This Mac growth has been hailed for several reasons. Depending on who your source is, the main arguments can change, but there is a consensus, and here’s an interesting interpretation as to Why Mac may be poised double digit market share. In general, there is greater demand in the consumer space where standard PCs have been faltering more than enterprise. However, this can be a little blurred as a lot of Macs are part of BYOD trends. The perception of more robust devices, less problems and greater support is prevalent in addition to the over Apple Halo Effect. Also, as iOS owners increase, the more likely it is some will choose a Mac as their next notebook or desktop computer.

 

Security concerns?

So what are, if any, the security concerns within this Mac community? There does, to a lesser extent, seem to prevail a sense of immunity or false sense of security in regards to Mac, which can still be seen on forums and social media. It is true that Mac users are not as threatened as Windows users, as the Windows market still presents a much more attractive opportunity for malware actors due to sheer numbers. However, that only means you are relatively more secure than Windows users, and in some cases not even so, as Phishing, for example, is platform agnostic and will affect you regardless of the operating system you are running.

Thankfully, perceptions are also changing, like the PC industry as a whole.  As new threats become more pervasive and publically visible, following market growth, and more parts of our lives / businesses become digitized, Mac users are becoming more security-aware. Bitdefender’s Product Manager for Mac / iOS Bȕlent Duagi (Billy) recently noted:

“Mac users are becoming more security conscientious. In a recent survey we ran we saw that even though 60% of the participants declared that ‘I trust the Apple culture regarding the security of Mac OS’, they prefer not taking security risks and install security solutions."

 

Security threats?

As the Mac market share continues to grow, so too is the attention from malware actors, as it is an additional business opportunity for them to leverage. The stats that we have received from our threat labs show year on year growth at 137% for 2013-14 and 286% for 2014-2105. In addition to the global stats we have been following a trend for some time now in regards to Adware, which has a much more negative impact on Mac users compared with Windows. And this is also a growing trend and cause for concern.

“The claim that Apple users are less threatened than Windows users is currently still correct, but could change rapidly. It was the low market share of Macs that limited the attentions of online criminals; now that Macs are becoming more popular, this state of affairs is changing.” AV Compartives, Mac Security review 2015

 

It may not be just about the Mac

An interesting aspect to the growing Mac threats is the actual target of the malware, something that you might think irrelevant – a threat is a threat right?A lot of detected malware on Macs is actually targeting Windows endpoints / PCs. So, even if you think you will get lucky and will not be affected by Mac malware or platform agnostic threats like phishing, you might pose a threat to others. Last month (June 2015) we saw that 16% of Macs protected by Bitdefender technology detected malware that was targeting Windows PCs. A common technique to breach enterprises today is to do so laterally: this entails breaching a weak link, usually an endpoint, and then using that as a foot hold to access more valuable digital assets within the enterprise.

In summary, the Mac market is growing strongly. In line with it, we are seeing growing security threats both direct (Mac Malware / platform agnostic malware such as phishing) and indirect, where Mac devices can be weak links in enterprises’ security armory. Fortunately, Mac users and enterprises are starting to take threats more seriously and are closing the security risk gap, creating opportunities for best of breed Mac security solutions to respond to this market demand.

If you are interested in seeing what technology Bitdefender OEM licenses and that you could integrate into your existing or future solutions using software development kits or simply rebranding award winning products, check out the possibilities on our website: http://www.bitdefender.com/oem/ 

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Darragh Kelly

Darragh Kelly, Global OEM Product Marketing Manager at Bitdefender, has been working within the IT Security industry for over 17 years. Having had a diverse number of roles, such as QA, Tech Support, Training and Product Marketing in his career he has a unique understanding of the challenges faced by a wide range of stakeholders in the business.

Topics: Threats, Endpoint Security