The BBC reports that a new ransomware program is on the loose, and it’s targeting Mac computers.

The ransomware, MacRansom, works by encrypting data and demanding payment before releasing the files. This ransomware was released alongside some new spyware, known as MacSpy, that’s also targeting Macs. This spyware is meant to monitor a user’s online activity and steal sensitive information when it appears.

Security firms discovered both programs. They also discovered that the makers of the malicious software created an online storefront that allowed anyone to deploy the programs free of charge.

People who wanted to use the programs simply had to get in touch with the creators of the software and explain how they’d like the viruses used. From there, the creators of the viruses would split funds collected from the ransomware attack 50/50 between themselves and the client.

While the introduction of this spyware and malware may seem shocking, the viruses are much less advanced than the programs written to target Windows computers, although these programs are geared specifically for Mac machines.

The Risks of the Ransomware & Spyware Targeting Macs

While these recent viruses were poorly engineered, they still managed to pose some serious security threats to affected users.

The main threat was the loss of files to the ransomware hack. While most files claimed by ransomware are recoverable, this program was not equipped to handle the decryption keys associated with returning the data. This meant people affected by the virus stood almost no chance of regaining their information.

The spyware, on the other hand, made it possible for strangers to claim a person’s sensitive information and use it for malicious purposes, such as opening fraudulent bank accounts and accessing personal profiles.

How to Protect Yourself From Malicious Software: 3 Tips

While many people believe Macs can’t get viruses, this simply isn’t true. In fact, as the Mac OS X system becomes more and more popular, it’s a virtual certainty that the engineers of malicious software will spend more time and energy designing viruses to infiltrate Mac systems.

In fact, there are currently about 450,000 malicious software programs meant specifically to target Mac computers.

As such, Mac users need to be vigilant about online security threats and have the understanding necessary to avoid them. Here are some tips to protect your Mac from spyware and ransomware:

1. Enable XProtect

XProtect is Apple’s native malware protection. XProtect functions much like antivirus software on Windows computers. By scanning the programs Mac users run, this software ensures they don’t pose any red flags.

XProtect comes on Mac OSX systems. It runs in the background, however, and is not a visible interface. As such, lots of people don’t realize it exists.

To protect yourself from viruses and malware, though, you’ll want to ensure XProtect is enabled. To do this, click the Apple menu and head to System Preferences. From there, click the icon for the App Store and enable the setting for “Install system data files and security updates.”

2. Keep Your Apps up-to-Date

Routine app updates close security loopholes in programs, which is an essential step to preventing ransomware and spyware.

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t update your software or applications, now is the time to start. Updated apps are less vulnerable to attacks and will help keep your entire system safe for years to come.

3. Back Everything Up

No matter how well you prepare your system, it’s still possible for something like ransomware to strike. If it does, the process will be much less catastrophic if you’ve backed up all your files than if you hadn’t.

With this in mind, back everything up on a regular basis. Use two separate backup systems, one online and one offline, to ensure maximum protection for your files.

In a World of Growing Malware Threats, Good Security is Essential

It’s unlikely the threat of malicious software and spyware targeting Macs will disappear for OS X users anytime soon. It is, however, possible to keep your system safe from spyware and ransomware by taking some proactive steps.

If you have additional questions about computer security or believe you may have been affected by a malicious program or virus, contact the techs here at Computer CPR today!