Malwarebytes Stops Hackers from Taking a Bite Out of Apple

Malwarebytes, best known for its free virus-busting software, has set its sights on Mac.

This month, the company released its namesake Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac product to help people who toil behind that glowing Apple logo keep their data safe. The software sniffs out and removes malware, adware, and potentially unwanted programs that often skirt the line between legitimate software and intrusive code.

The free consumer version is available now. Commercial editions for small businesses and enterprises, complete with management tools, will be announced this fall.

Why Macs and why now? Compared to Microsoft Windows, Apple owns only a tiny share of the desktop operating system (OS) market. According to Net Applications, a Web analytics firm, less than 5 percent of desktop PCs run on Mac OS X—versus 90 percent of all Windows editions XP and above.

Small business security software: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac

Mac Malware on the Rise

Just as small businesses can’t hide in the shadows of big corporations and hope that hackers will pass them by, Mac owners shouldn’t assume nobody is out to get them.

A big target is tempting—as the constant barrage of malware targeting Microsoft’s Windows OS demonstrates. Last year, Malwarebytes removed more than 5 billion pieces of malware and scrubbed 250 million computers.

In the pursuit of ill-gotten gains, cyber crooks aren’t above picking on the little guy, Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, said. Traditionally, Macs were a low priority for malware coders. Kleczynski told Small Business Computing. “But leave it to hackers and criminals; they’ll find a way to monetize any hardware online.”

Compounding the issue, Mac owners seem to be evenly split on the need for malware protection. Citing a June 2015 report from OPSWAT, a provider of security software development tools, “only 50 percent of users had some kind of antivirus,” said Kleczynski.

Lately, hackers’ efforts to monetize Mac owners have centered on Trojans, scams involving tech support popups and HTML ransomware and adware, like Genieo, Conduit, and VSearch.

More than mere annoyances, these threats can derail your workday or online research activities by injecting ads and hyperlinks in Web pages. Others rudely make themselves at home, adding unwanted toolbars to browsers and switching your search engine and homepage preferences.

Powered by AdwareMedic

To help tackle the growing problem, the company acquired The Safe Mac and its popular Mac adware remover, AdwareMedic, which powers Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac. “A lot of Apple Geniuses were running it in the store,” helping clean up the beleaguered Macbooks that flooded their Apple Stores, said Kleczynski.

Also joining Malwarebytes is AdwareMedic’s creator, Thomas Reed as director of Mac offerings, heading a growing team of Apple security specialists.

“We’ve thrown four engineers at the problem now and have taken a very aggressive stance on bundleware and crapware,” Kleczynski said of his company’s zero-tolerance approach to unwanted software, even if it’s technically classified as a helper app and other harmless-sounding software.

“Given Malwarebytes’ philosophy of taking a hard stance against adware and PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs), and their commitment to offering free consumer versions of our products, the fit could not have been any better,” wrote Reed in a blog post announcing the deal, which was four months in the making. “I’m even more excited when I think about plans for the future, which will include rounding out Malwarebytes’ offerings with other Mac products, providing features like efficient real-time protection, anti-exploit protection and enterprise-friendly capabilities.”

AdwareMedic lives on, albeit under a different name and with a stronger outlook, Reed said. “For the time being, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac is only a removal tool,” Reed said. “It will scan for, and remove adware, PUPs, and various types of malware, and it will do it all for free if you’re a home user.” Small businesses have a short wait before the company unveils the paid version with advanced security management functionality.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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