My husband and I work as system administrators in a large Chicagoland private school with many hundreds of PCs and Macs, iPhones and iPads, connected to a variety of local networks, each connected to the internet. Every one of those products is under attack by outside forces and so is your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
What Can You Do?
The math here is rather straightforward. If a device you use is connected to the public internet, regardless of router configurations and firewalls, it is subject a constant barrage of attacks. Each of those devices has an IP (internet protocol) address and that makes it a target of hackers and criminals and attacking bots from all over the world. It’s likely that most Mac users have never seen a firewall log, and if you did you would be afraid; be very afraid.
What is interesting about my somewhat fear-mongering paragraph above is this; despite the attacks against every internet connected device, Apple’s products seem to attract fewer intrusions.
For example, the famous Mirai malware attacks various devices that run Linux and turns them into remotely controlled bots that can attack other internet services. Home routers, DVRs, security cameras, and other devices have been attacked and controlled by criminals and hackers; attacks that can bring down a single website or internet service, or large chunks of the internet’s infrastructure which becomes wide scale outages.
What can you do?
First, using Apple products does not ensure victory, but it’s a good first start because Apple has something of a closed system architecture with macOS Sierra and iOS 10, while Android smartphones are based on Linux, and Windows PCs are in greater use in business worldwide so are a larger and more lucrative target.
Many devices that are connected to the internet often leave specific ports open which attracts attacks which attempt to take advantage of an exploit in a vulnerability. That’s what Mirai does with common routers and other products.
Second, every Apple product you own– that is connected to the public internet– is subject to similar attacks because attackers search first for IP addresses, then specific ports on specific devices. That explains why so many technology writers warn against using free public Wi-Fi and encourage readers to use VPN apps when using the public internet.
Are you completely safe using Apple’s products? No. Are you safer? Yes.
Barely a month ago I came across a list of ways to avoid being hacked online during the Black Friday shopping frenzy. The list includes basics– pick a good password– but some additional tricks and tips that help you stay safe online, regardless of which device you use to access the internet. The list ended with Common Sense.
If an email offer looks too good to be true, the prices on a website are abnormally low or you receive an unsolicited telephone call offering computer support, it’s probably a scam.
That won’t prevent Mirai attacks on your DVR or home router, but it’s where you start first to protect yourself online.