Apple Inc. has a reputation for building secure devices, but don’t become too complacent because ransomware threats to Mac users are on the rise.
While ransomware attacks against Microsoft Windows-based computers and servers remain far more prevalent, security researchers have detected new Mac threats in recent years and expect to see new threats in the future. Here’s a quick look at three forms of ransomware that are known to target Mac users:
KeRanger disguises itself as a popular application
Imagine this: You go to download a copy of Transmission, the popular torrent download application, only to find that it infects your computer with ransomware. That’s what happened to more than 7,000 Mac users in 2016 after cybercriminals hacked into the Transmission website and implanted KeRanger—ransomware that targets Mac OS X—into the downloads. The downloads were stamped with the official Transmission developer certificate so Gatekeeper, the Mac function that validates applications, was easily fooled.
The ransomware was hidden inside a file called general.rtf and was designed to wait three days before encrypting user data. After encrypting files, the malicious software displayed a ransom note demanding one bitcoin. The ransomware installer has since been removed from Transmission’s website.
Think you’re fixing apps with Patcher? Think again
Patcher disguises itself as a patching tool for well-known apps like Adobe Premiere Pro and Microsoft Office. The ransomware, which has been downloaded via BitTorrent, is so poorly designed that even the malware’s creators are unable to supply decryption keys to victims who pay the ransom.
Patcher stores important files, documents, pictures and other media in an encrypted .zip file and deletes the original data. It then attempts to wipe the free space on the drive so that disk recovery tools will be ineffective. Patcher concludes by scattering copies of “README!.txt” in the victim’s document and picture folders. The README! file contains ransom payment instructions.
FindZip makes you hunt for decryption keys
Much like Patcher, FindZip ransomware attacks Mac users by copying important files into an encrypted .zip file and deleting the original data. FindZip, which is also known as Filecoder, has no decryption capabilities so victims who pay the ransom will not be able to recover their data. The good news is that you can discover the decryption keys by comparing an unencrypted file to an encrypted one. Avast has created a tool that automates the process of discovering the tools and decrypting files.
Protect your Mac from ransomware
Mac users are clearly not free from the threat of ransomware. While not at epidemic proportions, ransomware attacks against Macs have seen widespread success by breaking into systems that were assumed secure. Fortunately, users today have access to a variety of backup options. You can add an extra layer of protection to your Mac computer by stepping beyond the Apple ecosystem of TimeMachine nearline backups and iCloud synchronization and embracing a third-party cloud backup solution.