March 8, 2016 11:03 am
Updated: March 8, 2016 12:44 pm

Fewer than 7,000 Mac computers infected with ransomware: Report

Mac users - don't panic.

Nico De Pasquale Photography/Flickr

Mac users may have felt a bit of panic this week after security researchers said they discovered the first ransomware attack targeting their computers. But according to a report by Forbes, the overall impact of the virus was limited to less than 7,000 devices.

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Over the weekend experts with Palo Alto Networks said the ransomware was found in version 2.90 of the BitTorrent app called “Transmission.” Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts files on a user’s computer and asks for money in exchange for unlocking data.

The malicious software – dubbed “KeRanger” – waits three days before encrypting info on the infected Mac and then asks for one Bitcoin (about CAD$548) in ransom, according to researchers.

READ MORE: Apple computers hit with ransomware for the first time

“Our best guess at this point is that approximately 6,500 infected disk images were downloaded,” a Transmission spokesperson told Forbes.

Soon after Palo Alto Networks published its findings, Transmission released a new version of its software that is said to remove the malicious program from the user’s computer.

The spokesperson for the BitTorrent app also told Forbes that the website’s main server was compromised, but the security has since been increased to prevent another attack.

This is good news for Mac users, considering some ransomware attacks targeting Windows users have affected hundreds of thousands. For example, the Cryptolocker ransomware – which peaked in 2014 – affected over 230,000 users in total.

Tips to keep your Mac safe from viruses

Just like Windows users, Mac users can do many things to protect their computers from viruses.

The first thing Apple will suggest is making sure you always download and install the latest security patches available for your current operating system. Apple updates these patches often to protect against security vulnerabilities.

Your Mac computer also comes with something called “Gatekeeper” – a program designed to detect malicious software before it’s installed on your computer.

READ MORE: Ransomware virus holds your files for ransom – how to protect yourself

“When you download software from any other place on the Internet, Gatekeeper makes that safer, too. Developers can get a unique Developer ID from Apple and use it to digitally sign their apps. The Developer ID allows Gatekeeper to block apps created by malware developers and to verify that apps haven’t been tampered with,” reads Apple’s website.

“If an app was developed by an unknown developer — one with no Developer ID — Gatekeeper can keep your Mac safe by blocking the app from being installed.”

You can also set Gatekeeper to only download and install apps from the Mac App Store, where Apple reviews each app before it’s accepted by the store.

If you want to take security one step further,  you can download an anti-virus program for your computer (no, anti-virus programs aren’t just for Windows users). These programs are available from security companies like Sophos and Norton.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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