Microsoft Windows used to be hackers’ system of choice as far as developing new malware to attempt to break into networks and steal business and personal data. That has started to change in the last couple of years, however, as the number of people using Apple computers or iPhones has grown exponentially.
For hackers, it’s all about volume. The increasing popularity of devices powered by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iOS means it’s now worth it to hackers to focus on Apple, with industry experts noting that the number of attacks against iPhones and Apple PCs have surged recently, according to a new report from Symantec.
New Symantec report says Apple’s iOS is under siege by hackers
In a new report published last week, security researchers at Symantec announced they’ve found 22 new threats aimed at Apple operating systems since June 2014. Of note, that is an increase from only 17 in the prior 18 months.
In that 18 months, researchers at the California security firm said they identified nine threats specifically aimed at the mobile operating system for Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, up from a single threat spotted in the previous year and a half.
Experts note that although Apple’s operating systems have generally been considered more secure than Windows, the increase in attention from hackers and the millions of new devices out there means a growing number are becoming vulnerable to hackers.
Nick O’Brien, who works as a senior information developer for Symantec, noted that although the number of threats targeting Apple devices “remains quite low compared to Windows in the desktop space and Android in the mobile sector,” iPhone and Mac users better prepare for a more difficult future.
“Should Apple platforms continue to increase in popularity, the number of cybersecurity threats facing Apple users will likely grow in parallel,” O’Brien added.
Apple products currently represent 13.5% of global smartphone sales and 7.5% of PCs, based on data from IDC, and hackers are quite aware of the growing number of users.
In a startling statistic for complacent iPhone and Mac users, in the first three quarters of 2015, the total number of unique Apple computers infected with malware was 700% higher than in the full year in 2014.
“This increase in usage has not gone unnoticed by attackers. A rising number of threat actors have begun developing specific malware designed to infect devices running OS X or iOS,” the Symantec team noted in their report.
In specific, the number of exploits aimed at the Mac OS X were up 15% year over year in 2014, after almost doubling in 2013.
Cybersecurity experts highlight the irony that it is the growing popularity of Apple iPhones and other personal devices that is leading to the increase in attention from hackers and the need for users to be more security aware.
Zerodium, a firm that works with private hackers and government agencies, recently offered $1 million reward for an attack that could compromise an iPhone running the latest operating system.
Apple Watch sales are booming
On a related note, it turns out that the Apple Watch is becoming a hit, and is expected to be a very popular gift this holiday season. The smart watch category is hot overall, and the iPhone maker’s offering is considered the gold standard by most.