What it is: The Fireball malware has potentially infected up to 250 million computers worldwide.
In the old days, malware usually targeted specific operating systems such as Windows. That’s because more PCs run Windows than any other operating system. That doesn’t necessarily make Windows the best or worst operating system, just the most vulnerable by virtue of being the most used. Now a recent malware, dubbed Fireball, has been found to infect both Windows PCs and Macintosh computers.
The problem is that any popular operating system will become a target. Both Windows and macOS were largely designed before security became a problem, so it’s like patching a leaky sieve after the fact. This is what makes iOS more secure than macOS because iOS was designed from the start to be less vulnerable although no operating system can be perfect. To avoid malware, the simplest solution is to become aware of how malware works. Once you understand that malware typically tricks users into installing it through email or bogus web sites, you can greatly reduce the threat of malware infections.
Second, use obscure programs to access the Internet. On Windows, most people use Internet Explorer, Chrome, Edge, or Firefox. On a macintosh, most people use Safari. Since those browsers are the most popular, malware creators will target flaws in those browsers. Switching to a lesser known browser like Opera can minimize infections, but since all browsers work alike, no browser can protect you from malware that exploits and booby traps a web site.
So the third line of prevention is running anti-malware programs periodically and keeping up to date on the latest malware infections. No matter what you do, there’s always a chance your computer could get infected. If it does get infected, you need to know how to remove the malware. Since some malware will disable your browser, you either need a second computer to download an anti-malware programs, or a second browser in case the malware disables your main browser.
You never want a computer with only one browser since if malware disables it, you can’t access the Internet to download anti-malware programs or instructions. At the very least, install a second browser on your computer. This will increase the chance of accessing the Internet if malware disables your main browser.
Malware is everywhere and you can be a target. You can never prevent malware infections but you can take steps now to prepare for a possible malware infection. As the Fireball malware shows, no computer is safe regardless of the operating system it runs. The Macintosh is generally safer than Windows, but it too can be infected by malware.
Be ready. Be prepared. It’s going to happen to you eventually so make sure to keep good backups and be ready.