A senior Apple executive has made a surprising admission about the cybersecurity aspect of the Mac portfolio, which has long being consider a safe haven from cyber nastiness.

Apple’s head of software, Craig Federighi, speaking during the courtroom showdown between Apple and Epic Games, admitted that the iPad maker is not pleased with the amount of malware on its MacOS operating system.

It comes after security researcher Patrick Wardle in February warned that malware was being redesigned in order to target Mac computers running Apple’s M1 processor.

Mac malware

“Today, we have a level of malware on the Mac that we don’t find acceptable and that is much worse than iOS,” Federighi was quoted as saying by CNBC.

Federighi reportedly said the ability Apple gives users to install software from the internet on Mac computers is “regularly exploited” and that the iPhone’s operating system, iOS, has a “dramatically higher bar” for customer protection.

He was making these comments, because the difference between cybersecurity on the iPhone vs the Mac platform is an issue in the Epic Games trial, as it is seeking to force Apple to permit alternative third party app stores for iPhone devices.

On Wednesday, Federighi reportedly said that the user base of the Mac is about one-tenth the user base of the iPhone.

Apple has previously stated it has 1 billion active iPhone users.

“For iOS, we aspired to create something far more secure,” Federighi reportedly said. “All indications are that we have succeeded in doing so.”

He added that Apple found and removed about 130 different kinds of malware on Macs last year that had infected hundreds of thousands of user systems, compared with three kinds of malware that had infected iPhones.

“I have a couple family members who’ve gotten some malware on the Mac, but ultimately I think the Mac can be operated safely,” Federighi reportedly said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to testify in the trial on Friday.

Malware prevalence

Malware on Macs is less common than infections of Windows-based PCs, but it does seem to be increasing.

In 2019 for example Trend Micro warned of a malware variant that made use of legitimate share-trading software to invade Mac users’ systems.

Detection engineers Wes Hurd and Jason Killam at Red Canary warned in February they had come across “a strain of macOS malware using a LaunchAgent to establish persistence”, with nearly 30,000 Macs infected with the ‘Silver Sparrow’ malware.

And the issue could get worse, after it was reported that Apple was at the centre of a ransomware incident after one of its suppliers, Taiwan-based Quanta Computer was hacked last month.

According to Bloomberg, the REvil hacker group stole and published product blueprints from Apple supplier Quanta and is holding other blueprints under a $50 million ransom.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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