Malware makes headlines regularly these days, and although Macs are targeted far less than Windows PCs, Mac users still need to remain vigilant. A particularly serious type of malware is called ransomware because once it infects your computer, it encrypts all your files and holds them for ransom.
Luckily, despite the virulence of ransomware in the Windows world, where there have been major infections of CryptoWall and WannaCry, only a few pieces of ransomware have been directed at Mac users:
Realistically, don’t worry too much. But it’s likely that malware authors will unleash additional Mac ransomware packages in the future, so we encourage you to be aware, informed, and prepared.
First, let’s explain a few key terms and technologies. Apple’s Gatekeeper technology protects your Mac from malware by letting you launch only apps downloaded from the Mac App Store, or those that are signed by developers who have a Developer ID from Apple. Since malware won’t come from legitimate developers (and Apple can revoke stolen signatures), Gatekeeper protects you from most malware. However, you can override Gatekeeper’s protections to run an unsigned app. Do this only for apps from trusted developers. Even if you never override Gatekeeper, be careful what you download.
Apple’s XProtect technology takes a more focused approach, checking every new app against a relatively short list of known malware and preventing apps on that list from launching. Make sure to leave the “Install system data files and security updates” checkbox selected in System Preferences > App Store. That ensures that you’ll get XProtect updates. Similarly, install macOS updates and security updates soon after they’re released to make sure you’re protected against newly discovered vulnerabilities that malware could exploit.
Also consider running anti-malware software like Malwarebytes Premium or Mac Internet Security X9. That’s not absolutely necessary, like anti-malware solutions are for Windows, but doing so can provide peace of mind, particularly if you regularly visit sketchy parts of the Internet or download dodgy software.
Although regular backups with Time Machine are usually helpful, KeRanger tried to encrypt Time Machine backup files to prevent users from recovering their data that way. Similarly, a bootable duplicate updated automatically by SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner could end up replacing good files with encrypted ones from a ransomware-infected Mac, or a future piece of ransomware could try to encrypt other mounted backup disks as well.
If you ever are infected with ransomware, don’t panic, and don’t pay the ransom right away. Contact us so we can help you work through your options, which might entail restoring from a backup or bringing files back from older cloud storage versions. There are even descriptors for some Windows ransomware packages, and such utilities might appear for hypothetical Mac ransomware as well.
To reiterate, there’s no reason to worry too much about ransomware on the Mac, but letting Apple’s XProtect keep itself up to date, staying current with macOS updates, and using an Internet backup service will likely protect you from what may come.
That’s it from this week’s simply blog! Make sure to stay tuned for more useful security tips!
Apple’s new iPhone X does away with the Home button, which has been a fixture since the original iPhone and has long served as the Touch ID sensor. To replace Touch ID, Apple developed a new facial recognition technology called Face ID. With Face ID, the iPhone X scans your face to authenticate you instead of using your fingerprint. It is truly amazing technology, but we’ve been getting questions that we’d like to answer here. If you have others, get in touch!
Magic. Well, close. As science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Face ID is cutting-edge technology that uses Apple’s TrueDepth camera system to project over 30,000 invisible dots onto your face. Then it illuminates your face with infrared light and takes an infrared image. Finally, it translates that image into facial recognition data that’s encrypted and stored within the iPhone’s Secure Enclave (the data never leaves your iPhone).
Face ID updates its mathematical representation of your face over time to keep up with how your appearance changes.
Extremely. Apple claims that Touch ID’s false positive rate—the number of people who would have to try logging in to your iPhone before someone would succeed randomly—is 1 in 50,000. In contrast, Apple says that Face ID’s false positive rate is 1 in 1,000,000. It can’t be fooled by a picture or a simple mask, although a high-enough quality 3D reproduction of your face might get past it, just as a sufficiently good cast of your fingerprint could fool Touch ID.
However, Face ID has trouble distinguishing between identical twins and siblings who have nearly identical features. So if you have an evil twin, stick to a Touch ID-based iPhone or your passcode! The probability of an incorrect match is also higher with children under 13, since their facial features haven’t become sufficiently distinct yet.
By default, Face ID works only when you look at the iPhone X—it can’t be unlocked by your face when you’re sleeping.
Not quite as fast as Touch ID in current iPhones, but fast enough that you likely won’t notice. When you pick up your iPhone X so you can look at it, Face ID will, in most cases, have already recognized you.
This quick recognition is possible in part because the iPhone X can start scanning early, thanks to iOS’s Raise to Wake feature and a new Tap to Wake feature that automatically wakes the iPhone X when you touch the screen.
First off, things like wearing a hat, scarf, or glasses won’t confuse Face ID, nor will growing or shaving a beard. Thanks to that infrared camera, it even works in complete darkness. However, Face ID does fail occasionally. One reason for a Face ID failure is holding the iPhone X too close to your face—this is easy to do accidently if you’re nearsighted and not wearing your glasses. (Some sunglasses prevent Face ID from seeing your eyes, but you can work around that problem by disabling Require Attention for Face ID in Settings > Face ID & Passcode.)
To make Face ID retry a facial scan, hold the iPhone X at a normal viewing distance, tilt it away from you, and then tilt it back to your normal viewing position. If that doesn’t work, or if you want to let someone else use your iPhone, enter the passcode. Entering the passcode is always an option.
Alas, unlike Touch ID, which let you enroll up to five fingers (so family members could unlock your iPhone without using the passcode), Face ID lets you have only a single face.
Yes, Face ID completely replaces Touch ID, so you can use it to authenticate when you’re using Apple Pay, or the App Store or iTunes Store. Plus, apps that previously relied on Touch ID, such as the 1Password or LastPass password managers, will automatically use Face ID instead.
We hope Apple can make the hardware necessary for Face ID cheaply enough to bring it to other devices as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk up to your Mac and have it automatically unlock because it had recognized your face? That’s it for this blog! Stay tuned for more tech tips!
One of the most important things you can do to stay safe on the Internet is to be careful while reading email. That’s because online criminals know that we’re all busy, and we often don’t pay enough attention to what we’re reading or where we’re clicking.
To take advantage of our inattention, these Internet information thieves forge email messages to look like they come from the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, along with well-known banks, payment services, retailers, and even government agencies. Even more dangerous are messages that appear to come from a trusted individual and include personal details—these messages are often targeted at executives and company managers. Generally speaking, these attacks are called phishing—you can see examples here.
The goal? Get you to click a link in the message and visit a malicious Web site. That site usually continues to masquerade as being run by a company or organization you trust. Its aim is to sucker you into revealing confidential information by asking you to log in, pay for a product or service, or fill out a survey. The site—or an attachment in the email message—might also try to install malware. Although macOS is quite secure, if you approve security prompts, it can still be infected.
Although phishing is a huge problem that costs businesses hundreds of millions of dollars every year, you can easily identify phishing messages by looking for telltale signs:
So what do you do if you get a message that may be phishing for sensitive information? Most of the time you can just ignore it. If you’re worried that it might be legit, instead of clicking any links in the message, navigate to the site in question manually by typing the organization’s URL into your browser—use a URL that you know to be correct, not the one in the email message. Whatever you do, do not open attachments that you aren’t expecting and never send confidential information via email.
If you think you’ve fallen prey to a phishing attack and given away a password, you’ll want to change passwords on any affected accounts. If you’ve opened any attachments or approved any installs, run anti-malware software to determine whether your Mac has been infected. Contact us if you need help. And remember, regular backups protect you from a multitude of sins. That’s it from us this week, remember to stay safe out there people and if you have any concerns we offer malware removal and data back-up services.
By Dan Daly
By: Dan Daly