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MACDefender is the latest piece of malware to pop up targeting Apple's OS X platform. Its risk is minimal as it can only install via a combination of an exploit and user carelessness.  (Source: Intego)
Cybercriminal community's interest in attacking Apple users is growing, but still lacks discipline

According to a handful of dedicated hackers of Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) computer operating system, OS X, the OS is actually less secure than Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows.  But thanks to the OS's small market share (traditionally 5 percent or less) most cybercriminals haven't felt it worthwhile to target the platform.  Also, some hackers have misgivings about attacking Unix-like operating systems (e.g. Linux, OS X).

Still, Apple's growing market share and boastful claims of security have lead to an increased interest in attacks and some OS X malware has been popping up of late.  

The latest malware to target OS X is dubbed "MACDefender".  Attack pages for the new malware exploit the way Apple's default Safari browser handles Javascript, running a script that auto-initiates the download of a script file.  If the user has opted to open "safe" files, the archive will then auto-open and initiate an install dialogue.

The risk is minimal as users must approve of this dialogue and enter an administrative password to complete the installation.  Still it may be a bit more widespread as the attack pages have boosted themselves to near the top of many search results, thanks to search engine optimization (SEO) poisoning.

It is unclear what the software does when active, though it appears to be logging user activities.  Users who accidentally installed the software can still delete it by killing its process and dragging it from the Applications folder to the Trash bin.

Members of the Apple Support community first noted the malware last Saturday.  

On Monday, security firm Intego released an advisory, calling the risk of the malware "low".  Intego writes:

When a user clicks a link after performing a search on a search engine such as Google, this takes them to a web site whose page contains JavaScript that automatically downloads a file," Intego said. "In this case, the file downloaded is a compressed ZIP archive, which, if a specific option in a web browser is checked (Open 'safe' files after downloading in Safari, for example), will open.

The malware unfortunately shares its name with a legitimate OS X software firm.  MacDefender is a small software firm that makes geocaching software, including GCStatistic and DTmatrix.  The company has released a statement emphatically saying that it is not affiliated with the rogue software.

The company writes:

IMPORTANT NOTE: As it seams (sic) someone wrote a virus/malware application named mac defender ( for OS X. If you see an application named like this DO NOT DOWNLOAD/INSTALL it. I would never release an application named like this.

In recent months botnet-forming worms and trojans have targeted OS X.  Most of these pieces of malware have been amateurish efforts, though, or works in progress.  Nonetheless it remains a very real possibility that Apple could one day see a serious attack.

For its part Apple has suggested users get an antivirus program, though it still claims in advertisements that its platform does not suffer from malware like Windows.  Apple has refused to provide customers with free antimalware software like Microsoft does, so security firm Sophos Plc. has picked up the ball offering free basic protection to Mac users.  Some other smaller firms also offer free Mac antimalware suites.

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RE: I'm not saying..
By PaterPelligrino on 5/2/2011 9:11:48 PM , Rating: 3
We've had no end of articles about how easy it is to hack the Mac OS. Who was the famous hacker who compared the Mac to a house in the country with all of the doors and windows unlocked, whereas Windows was like a house in a real bad neighborhood with steel doors and bars in the windows?

Cliche or not, hackers are in it for the money, and the money is in the OS that has a market share that dwarfs the competition. As Willie Sutton said, he robs banks because that's where the money is. Which explains why Macs don't get a percentage of malware infections proportional to their market share. Very few in-it-for-the-money hackers are going to target an OS that's only run of one out of every 15(?) computers, no matter how easy it is to hack Apple stuff.

So yah, maybe you're right. If you're not computer savvy, the Mac is probably the OS for you. Certainly, I always recommend the Mac to those who aren't comfortable around computer tech.

However, if you aren't an idiot - the kind who clicks on all the junk mail in his In Box - then your PC isn't going to be paralyzed with malware as those bullsh't Mac ads would have everyone believe. Just because some guy confuses his gas and brake pedals and drives his car into a wall doesn't mean I shouldn't buy a Toyota.

I haven't had any type of malware problem on my Windows system in the last 6 years - nothing . I can't remember the last time my computer crashed or froze. This in spite of the fact that I visit the odd dodgy site and simultaneously run dozens of bickering, non-Msft apps.

You guys want to splash out on pretty products and hang in coffee shops doing cool things with each other - fine. You want to make a fashion statement and accessorize with suede covers and cases for your Apple kit - I think that's really lovely. But don't try to justify your existence by lying about those of us who don't share your adolescent brand fixation. No PC user who knows anything about computers recognizes himself in the stereotypes you pass around as accepted wisdom.

We're not martyrs. If the PC really was that bad, and Apple that much better, all the techies on this site would be fanboys. I certainly don't have any affection for Microsoft that would keep me buying their stuff if my computer was always crashing or getting infected with hacker sh't. I stay with the PC precisely because it does everything I ask of it, and doesn't cause me any problems. Therefore, I have no reason to move to Apple. Worshiping at the Church of Steve carries too high a price - both literally and figuratively - to tempt me.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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