Are Macs safe from viruses? Apple Silicon optimised malware has already been discovered

Macs are not safe from viruses

Are Macs safe from viruses? Apple Silicon optimised malware has already been discovered

Are Macs safe from viruses? Apple Silicon optimised malware has already been discovered

There was a time where Apple claimed that there were no viruses for Macs, creating ads that targetted Windows and how the OS was targetted by thousands of malicious applications every year. Now, Apple has backtracked from these advertisements, as their systems are as vulnerable as any other, with their primary protection being their lack of market share in the early 2000s. 

With the move to Apple Silicon, new Macs will not be as vulnerable to traditional viruses, but that doesn't mean that Apple Silicon Macs will be immune from viruses. Apple Silicon Malware has already been spotted in the wild. While the malware is more of a proof of concept than a legitimate threat, it is concerning that Malware creators are already preparing to target Apple Silicon with optimised code. 

As reported by Apple Insider, a malware cluster called "Silver Arrow" was discovered with code optimised for Apple's M1 chips, allowing the malware to target Apple Silicon Macs. This month, over 29,139 macOS endpoints for this malware was discovered across 153 countries.   

Apple Silicon will not make Macs more secure. Malicious code is quickly evolving to target new hardware, and Apple cannot rely on the small market share of its M1 devices for protection. The days of "No Visus on Mac" are long gone, and they are not returning. 

This recently discovered piece of Apple Silicon specific malware was also designed to utilise mechanisms that are unlike other pieces of macOS malware, using JavaScript for execution and utilised macOS's installer JavaScript API to execute suspicious code. While this malware's goal is unknown, it is not a huge threat in its current form. That said, similar mechanisms could be used to execute malicious code in the future. 

(Yes, this was an Apple ad in the early 2000s...)
A worrying aspect of Apple Silicon optimised malware is that anti-virus tools may struggle with arm64 macOS-focused malware. This malware will be coded differently from traditional malware and use different binaries, making malware detection difficult using standard methods. While anti-virus tools will evolve, malware developers may have an advantage in the short term. 

Moving forward, Apple will create more Macs that are based on its Apple Silicon, and malware creators will inevitably target these systems with increased frequency as more devices make it to market. Apple Silicon devices will not be free of malware, and it is only a matter of time before we see larger pieces of malware that are optimised for Apple's new Mac processors.  

Are Macs safe from viruses? Apple Silicon optimised malware has already been discovered  

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