Can Macs be Hacked?

Although it is not that frequent and not everyone has the skills to achieve it, a Mac can be hacked or affected by malware, so you need to know how to recognize when it is happening.

Can Macs be Hacked Surely we all have had the erroneous thought that “viruses are only Windows”, and depending on how you see it, there is a grain of truth in this , but not in the way that most believe.

Well, from the point of view of a hacker , it is much more feasible to attack Windows computers , since in addition to having more vulnerabilities than Macs, they are more frequent, so they would be more suitable to create, for example, a network of zombie computers. However, we should not be overconfident as our Macs also have exploits that can be used by cybercriminals to hack into your Mac.

That is why throughout this article we will help you understand this whole issue much better, to detect if your Mac has been hacked or if someone may be spying on or stealing your data . In addition to teaching you how to prevent it.

Can a Mac be hacked?

The short and quick answer is yes, of course. However, Apple has taken it upon itself to make this task impressively difficult . To do this, it has shielded its Macs and Macbooks with the protections offered by Gatekeeper, the Secure Enclave features of the M1 and M2 series chips and the T1 or T2 chip, and of course, with Apple’s XProtect integrated antivirus.

In this way, Apple not only makes it quite difficult for hackers , but it can even persuade them to even try, since they might consider hacking a Mac too much effort.

But although they are rare, vulnerabilities are occasionally discovered that could be used by hackers to break into Macs. These are known as backdoors or zero-day vulnerabilities . Once the researchers discover them, they usually notify Apple so that the company corrects them as soon as possible to minimize the risk of being exploited by hackers before .

Occasions in which hacked Macs have been reported

We reiterate that vulnerabilities in Macs are rare – and it is one of the reasons why many buy a Mac – but this does not mean that they could not be used by an attacker to gain access to the root of our computer.

For its part, Apple usually reacts quickly and closes these backdoors in a short time, however, on some occasions those from Cupertino have been criticized for responding slowly to an identified threat .

An example of this happened about 3 years ago, when the researcher Flippo Cavallarín discovered a vulnerability related to Gatekeeper technology that he reported to Apple immediately. But after not getting a response from the company for 90 days, he proceeded to go public with the details of the software weakness .

If we go back a year before this, there was a lot of talk about the Meltdown and Specter bugs that targeted vulnerabilities in Intel and ARM processors . But it was later fixed with updates to the operating system (OS).

And more recently, just under a year ago, Apple paid a student $100,000 after discovering a vulnerability with Macs that we’ll tell you about later. But again it was solved with macOS updates, and that is precisely why we must keep our Mac updated.

How to activate automatic updates in macOS?

The apple company is always on the lookout for security flaws and stays busy patching them as they emerge. So if Apple has released a new macOS update, it is convenient that we install it as soon as possible because it probably includes security components that will keep us protected.

So that you never have to worry about it again, it is recommended to configure your Mac to download and install updates automatically, you just have to carry out the following steps:

  • Open System Preferences
  • Once there, click on the Software Update section
  • Then select the option Keep my Mac up to date automatically

And that’s it, so your computer will search for updates on its own, downloading and installing them without you even having to think about it.

How do I know if my Mac has been hacked?

If you suspect your Mac has been hacked or has a virus, there are a few ways to find out. The first thing you need to do is answer this simple questionnaire:

  • Is your Mac terribly slow?
  • Has your internet connection suddenly slowed down?
  • Does advertising now look more dubious than you were used to?
  • Have you noticed something strange in your social networks, emails or bank accounts?

If any of these answers is positive, it is possible that our Mac has malware or has been hacked . In this case, the first thing you should do is a sweep with some security software to verify the presence of malware , Intego Mac Internet Security X9, McAfee Total Protection and Norton 360 Deluxe are some of the best options.

You can also take a look at the Activity Monitor and see if there is any activity that you may consider strange: you should be especially attentive to network activity. On the other hand, you can also go to System Preferences > Sharing and check if someone who might be suspicious has access to something.

One last recommendation, although it is not really about your Mac and it does not mean that you have been hacked, but it is very useful, it is to enter haveibeenpwned.com and enter our email, this way we will know if it is in any leak of data, and if so, change the password as soon as possible.

Tips to keep our Mac safe

The chances of us being hacked with a Mac are really low , since macOS is one of the most secure systems that exist, so there is no reason to set off alarms. But if you’re looking to keep the chances to a minimum, there are a couple of things you can do to achieve this:

  • First of all, one of the most basic: only download applications from the Mac App Store or, at least, from the official websites of the software manufacturers.
  • No matter what, if you haven’t requested a password change, security check or anything like that, DO NOT click on links you may receive via email , even those that seem trustworthy, as in some cases they can redirect us to fake websites that seek to steal our information to log in or download malicious programs.
  • Your ports are vulnerable, so do n’t use USB cables, charging cables, thumb drives, or external hard drives if you can’t be 100% sure they’re safe.

One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from hackers and malware is to download macOS updates as soon as they are available . However, we have already taught you how to configure your computer to do it automatically, so we can be more relaxed.

Lastly, using a password manager is a great way to get your accounts hacked . In this way we will be able to have multiple and the most complicated access data in all our accounts, but without even having to remember them, so it is impossible for them to be violated through brute force attacks.

Do Macs need an antivirus?

In theory no. Apple does everything possible to keep us protected from malware , to do this, they make it almost impossible to download them in the first place because they set off alarms and are blocked, and even if they could somehow be downloaded, those from Cupertino put even more effort where they cannot be installed.

Apple has native software that takes care of inspecting all applications and checking that each application and program is from a reliable developer before we open or install them.

Thanks to these implements, our Mac will be protected against malware ; Apple really takes the security of its users very seriously, but in some cases this may not be enough, and although the possibility is minimal, it still exists.

So if you want to minimize the risk even more, you could use antivirus on your Mac, however, we already told you that they may not be entirely necessary.

What are the most frequent viruses that affect Macs?

Compared to the viruses that infect computers with the Windows operating system, these are usually more complex and stronger in order to overcome all the obstacles that Apple puts in between. However, from time to time there is information about Mac computers “in the wild” that are infected.

Below we explain what are the most frequent types of malware that we could face:

  • Spyware – Criminals use malware that allows them to collect data about us , such as your login details. To do this, hacking programs have keyloggers that will record everything you type, and then search it for data of interest to criminals, such as the information you use to log in to all your accounts. A recent case of a spyware is CloudMensis , a virus that was discovered earlier this year, which is only known to have targeted its victims selectively.
  • Ransomware – A classic virus dedicated to extortion. With this type of malware , pirates can encrypt the files that are on your computer , and then contact you and demand money in exchange for decrypting them.
  • Adware : more than dangerous, it is really annoying, and it is also one of the most frequent. This malware takes control of your computer and will fill it with advertisements and pop-ups that could greatly affect your computer’s performance and in some serious cases, damage your computer.
  • Cryptojacking : Hackers are aware of how profitable the world of cryptocurrencies could be, and that is why they have developed computer viruses that, after infecting their victims, use the processor and RAM of Macs to mine crypto assets . If you have noticed that your computer is much slower than usual and for no apparent reason, this malware may be the one that is affecting its performance.
  • Botnet – Basically, your Mac becomes a machine that is operated remotely and forces the computer to send spam, spread viruses, or perform DDoS attacks, all without your permission.
  • Trojans : just like the historical account of classical Greece. This type of virus enters your computer pretending to be an innocuous or even useful program , but in the background, it can steal data or download some of the aforementioned malware . However, it cannot infect other computers.
  • Virus – Unlike Trojans, this type of malware has the ability to replicate and spread across devices and networks , destroying everything in its path. On Macs, it is common to find these viruses hidden in documents such as .DOC or .DOCX
  • Proof of Concept – Sometimes the threat may not be found directly “in the wild” but in a proof of concept, that is, a theoretical vulnerability in Apple code. This is a risk-free threat, although if Cupertino does not close the vulnerability quickly, it could be discovered by black hat hackers and exploit Macs. An example of this is the Buggy Cos proof of concept created by the Project Zero team from Google that managed to access the bowels of macOS using a bug in the system’s memory manager.
  • Exploitation of ports : As we already mentioned, your ports are vulnerable. Not all forms of piracy start with a download; Macs can sometimes be hacked by plugging a device into a port . It is possible to hack an Apple computer through the USB or Thunderbolt port, so you should never leave your Macbook unattended in public places and also always be aware of the devices you plug into it.

Can a Mac camera be hacked?

Once a hacker has gained access to your Mac, there are a number of ways they could try to hijack your microphone or camera. However, this should not currently be possible after the release of macOS Catalina.

Since the 2019 update, the apple company has protected its users from any type of exploit that had this purpose , since now it is necessary that we give permission before the camera, the microphone of the Mac or even before screen recording begins.

Also, if the video camera is on, you will always see a green light near it . But remember the student who received $100,000 for discovering a security flaw?

It was about Ryan Pickren, who in 2021 notified Apple about a vulnerability that allowed hackers to have control of the camera of Mac users, all of this overcoming the “alerts” that Apple had created to protect its users. . But this bug was fixed with macOS Monterey 12.0.1

Similarly, some time ago there was a vulnerability that allowed hackers to take control of the users’ camera in the Zoom videoconferencing service, all without the users realizing it , since although the webcam was active the green light was off

In this way, hackers (and according to somewhat conspiracy reports, also security forces) could monitor the activity of individuals without them having the slightest idea that they were being observed.

But later Zoom patched this vulnerability , however, it was done after the information was made public, and by the time of the patch, three months had passed since the company was privately notified of the vulnerability.