New Mac Virus is a Worm, But Can't Pose Threat Due to Amateur Mistake
May 7, 2009 9:06 AM
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The recent worm/trojan attacking Apple's Macs is relatively harmless due to its inability to complete its email attack. However, its a sign that Apple users may have to stock up for some future de-worming.
Virus proves insignificant, but may be a sign of things to come
A trojan virus
attacking Apple computers
, transmitted via pirated iWork software, gained significant attention as it was one of the first viruses to strike the OS X platform. OS X, the operating system of choice for Mac computers, has enjoyed relative safety from OS-tailored attacks thanks to its small market share, though it has become increasingly vulnerable to
cross-platform application-level exploits
The new virus, written in RealBasic, is an
ambitious, but decidedly amateurish
effort. Comments in the code state that the virus's goal is to create the "First Mac OS X Botnet." The virus also tries to steal email addresses, record keystrokes, and transmit itself via attach hard drives.
Some news outlets reported the virus, dubbed Tored, was a worm; others reported it was a trojan. It turns out it's both -- or at least tries to be. Both the email theft and replication to attached drives mimic viral worms like the
. However, the SMTP server that the virus tries to forward itself via is currently inactive. Thus it is currently limited to trojan-style attacks, via the malware-bundled software.
A trojan typically refers to a virus that users unwittingly download and install. A worm, on the other hand, can transmit itself over a network, via email or remote login. Transmission via infected USB is a gray area -- some refer to such viruses as worms, others, trojans.
The virus is perhaps the first "e-mail aware" trojan to attack Macs. While there have been several Apple-specific trojans over the last few years, this appears to be the first virus to
to behave as a worm as well. This behavior represents a new kind of attack to the Mac platform, even if this particular attack was poorly executed.
States Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, "A lot of Mac fans think that for something to be a worm then it requires no user interaction to spread. Although there are some Windows worms like that (for instance, Sasser and Code Red), many of the pieces of malware that we consider to be worms (for instance, The Love Bug, Anna Kournikova, etc.) did require user interaction and spread quite successfully."
Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the new virus was that its would-be emails featured this message, in hopes of targeting Macs -- "For Mac OS X ! :(If you are not on Mac please transfer this mail to a Mac and sorry for our fault :)"
Mr. Cluley states, "The good news is that Tored doesn't appear to be a very serious threat, and no-one is likely to encounter it. A much more serious threat for Mac users are the Trojans that are being planted on Websites posing as an attractive download.”
In January, trojans aboard pirated copies of iWork ‘09 and the Mac version of Adobe Photoshop CS4 infected over 5,000 computers. While lacking the ability to spread autonomously, they formed what is believed to be the first Mac botnet.
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User and not platform error
5/9/2009 8:06:34 AM
People have loved news stories with vague threats about OSX and Linux virus and worms infections for years already. While obviously any OS had, has and will have security problems – they're more similar than not in their structure, purpose and code after all – show me first a real large-scale OSX/Linux security disaster instead the media of warning us that "it's coming any day now".
Besides, for any platform, downloading cracked and backdoored versions of software is user error and not platform error. I'm not a Mac fan, but news stories about 5000 people downloading illegal software tells us nothing about the platform or its security. It only tells us that end-users are dumb. Which is hardly a news-worthy conclusion...
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