Trick or treat: Unmasking Mac security myths for business users
With organizations facing an ever-evolving threat landscape, how safe is it to equip your knowledge workers with Macs?
This post contains content for We Got Your Mac podcast, presented by SHI.
There’s a long-standing myth that Macs and the OSX operating system don’t need additional security because the platform is inherently more secure. But how true is this? And is the landscape changing as Apple’s market share continues to rise?
This common misconception has existed for a long time, but it is simply not the case – just like Windows devices, Macs still require careful attention to security.
However, SHI Field CISO Brad Bowers believes the Mac platform does provide some inherent security advantages. In episode 5 of “We Got Your Mac,” he offers some sage advice and considerations to organizations rolling out Mac at scale.
Myth: There are no viruses that can impact Mac
The truth of the matter is Mac’s OSX operation system is susceptible to viruses and malware just like other systems. While Macs have been built on an impressive foundation of security, the bottom line is bad actors will find a way to hack into systems and platforms, regardless of the platform’s origin. Yes, this also means that even the newest Mac isn’t completely safe without the proper safeguards. The only way to ensure security is to leverage layers of security controls to stay one step ahead.
“Bad guys tend to go where the money is. They are looking to go after the systems where they have the best chance to circumvent security and steal the data they are after,” Brad says.
Historically speaking, hackers did not find Mac platforms to be lucrative targets. Apple’s market share meant that it wasn’t necessarily worth the effort to specifically target Macs and their users.
With Apple’s ever-growing presence in high-profile, profitable business spaces, and the IT industry’s rapid adoption of cloud services, Macs have become more attractive targets. Additionally, with the accelerating rate of new malware such as Atomic Stealer and PACMAN appearing, awareness of the threats to Mac users is increasing. To ignore the shifting landscape and growing threats would be potentially risky to organizations rolling out Macs.
Apple has built OSX security from the ground up, offering unique characteristics that make their systems significantly more challenging for attacks. Most notable is Apple’s closed ecosystem.
Fact: Apple’s closed ecosystem creates a dilemma for bad actors
Macs operate on a predominately closed and heavily managed ecosystem. This means that Apple wields considerable control over what runs on its platform. Through comprehensive analysis, a stringent approval process, and consistent, close monitoring, applications running on the Mac platform are held to a high standard.
By default, applications offered on Mac platforms must be signed by a valid Apple certificate and originate from a known, good source. This added approval and monitoring sets Apple apart when it comes to application security.
Fact: Your people are your biggest security risk
As discussed, Apple offers many security controls that help mitigate risks concerning malware and ransomware designed to collect data and steal passwords. Unfortunately, all these controls require users to make smart decisions. The biggest risk that security teams face is still the human aspect.
Even in the most secure digital environments, a single team member clicking a phishing link could send an entire organization into a crisis. Educating and monitoring personnel is crucial in any organization, and an organization utilizing a Mac platform is no exception.
Mac adoption by IT administrators and security teams is a key indicator
IT administrators and security professionals are increasingly using Macs. Many IT professionals select Macs not only because they are robust, powerful devices that use less power, but also because the OSX operating system allows them a more granular level of system interaction and security management.
Additionally, compatibility issues for administrative tools on Macs are a thing of the past. It used to be a challenge for IT and security administrators to perform their daily tasks on Mac. Now, many security practitioners feel OSX can support a much more intuitive environment for IT and security tool operation. Security teams have begun to leverage these tools to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently.
Apple continues to innovate and raise the bar in security
Apple’s native security efforts are known for being extremely effective on their own. With the introduction of “Silicon” in 2020, Apple raised the security bar. With upgrades and updates such as T2 security chips, Macs provide a protective enclave for passwords, validate application authenticity, and even skew memory locations, making malware and ransomware attacks more difficult to execute.
With the most recent enhancements, Apple appears to be leading the way in innovation with a full picture of security as a top priority. With Apple’s viewpoint that security risks are (and will always be) evolving and present, those considering Mac at scale can rest assured that Apple is focused on stopping bad actors before an event occurs. But that doesn’t mean that IT leaders can neglect their own due diligence when it comes to cybersecurity.
Interested in learning more? To listen to Victoria, Kevin, and Brad’s full conversation addressing the layered Mac operating system, the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity threats, the importance of security monitoring and enhancements, and more, visit the “We Got Your Mac” page or listen to episode 5 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.