Apple's M1 laptops face their first malware threat — Here's what we know

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Apple's release of the M1 chip was inarguably the most significant laptop news of the last year.  It marked the beginning of Apple's move to its own ARM-based silicon and yielded incredible performance in its first iteration.

It should come as little surprise then that hackers also have taken notice. Independent security researcher Patrick Wardle has identified what is believed to be the first malware specifically built for Apple's M1 laptops (via Vice).

The malware is a modified version of known macOS adware GoSearch22, which is installed as a Safari extension that will then inject pop-ups, coupons and ad banners onto the infected system.

Now while these behaviors are both irritating and profitable for the hacker, as malware goes it isn't the most significant problem. However, Wardle states that a future update could certainly change that. This was the same concern with its predecessor from 2016-2017 known as Pirrit, which was notoriously difficult to remove from a user's system. 

For now, Apple has removed the developer certificate of those responsible for this new variant, which should protect any additional users from installing it. While Apple users don't face the same volume of threats as their Windows counterparts, it is important to remember that even the most cutting edge Apple hardware isn't immune to malware, adware and viruses. 

Wardle even found that 15% of antivirus apps weren't yet detecting the M1-specific malware, driving home the importance of choosing a reputable antivirus app and ensuring that it is up-to-date.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.