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Apple hopes that if it pretends that malware doesn't exist its customers will believe so too. Apple techs are under strict orders not to help customers who are suffering from malware infe

Employees claim ~6 percent of Macs are now infected by malware, though many Mac owners are convinced their computers are "immune" to such problems.  (Source: Cult of Mac)

Microsoft actually helps protect its customers from malware programs and acknowledges they exist. It even offers its customers free protection.  (Source: iTech News Net)
Jobs and company hope to keep customers ignorant of the truth

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) long had the good fortune (from a certain perspective) of not being very popular with consumers and thus gaining security through obscurity.  With millions of Macs in the wild and Apple sitting pretty in fourth place in PC sales, though, the company is seeing an increasing number of malware attacks.

I. The Customers Want the Truth?  They Can't HANDLE the Truth!

In response to these attacks Apple has reportedly implemented a policy which is equal measures bizarre and baffling -- it's telling technicians to adopt a "don't ask don't tell" policy with regards to customers complaints about malware, feigning ignorance on the topic.

An Apple Store Genius (store technician) leaked internal documents to ArsTechnica.  One memo reads:

Apple Internal Use Only - Issue/Investigation in Progress - Confidential Information - Do Not Disclose Externally


Customers may call AppleCare to report and issue with malware (trojan) software known as Mac Defender or Mac Security, or because they are concerned that their Mac could become infected.  The name may vary as new variants are released onto the internet.  This malware is installed from malicious websites.

Products Affected

Mac OS X 10.6, Mac OS X 10.5, Mac OS X 10.4

A second memo adds:


    • Do not confirm or deny that any such software has been installed.
    • Do not attempt to remove or uninstall any malware software.
    • Do not send escalations or contact Tier 2 for support about removing the software or provide impact data.
    • Do not refer customers to the Apple Retail Store.  The ARS does not provide any additional support for malware.

The disgusted Apple employee is quoted as stating, "Frankly, it's Social Engineering at it's finest.  In some respects, I feel a little bad for the people hit by this, but at the same time, I can't help but be frustrated that people inherently trust everything they're prompted to do on their machines. The beauty of Mac OS X is its security model. That people blindly enter a password is going to be the undoing of it."

(The employee's comments allude to that Apple's OS requires users to verify installations using a feature similar to the UAC found in Windows 7.)

II. How Widespread is the problem?

Andy says that in the past about 0.2 percent of service Macs were suffering from some kind of malware -- "most always DNS trojans."  Now that number soared to around 5.8 percent, mostly thanks to MacDefender -- a trojan that DailyTech previously reported on.

The employee states, "There's been a very real uptick in the number of malware instances we've seen."

"With regard to how the company is dealing with it, the answer is not very well," he adds. "As you know, OS X requires an admin user to authenticate and OK the install for pretty much anything that's not drag and drop. The response has been a case of 'they installed it, so it's not our problem.' Until something that makes use of a zero-day exploit hits, I really doubt that we're going to do anything, technology wise, to address this."

But is the OS X security model really superior to Windows 7?

Famed Mac security expert Charlie Miller, who won multiple years for the fast Mac hack at Pwn2Own, comments, "Mac OS X is no more secure than any other operating system. It has vulnerabilities, and it will let you download and run malware. The difference is that there simply isn't that much malware written for it. The bad guys have focused all their energies at Windows, which makes up the vast majority of the computers out there. However, as market share for Macs continues to inch up, that equation is going to change and bad guys will begin to focus in on Macs, if that hasn't already started to happen. And as I mentioned above, Macs are no more inherently secure than Windows, so when the bad guys decide to go after them with gusto, it'll get ugly fast."

Other hackers have also commented that OS X 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") has inferior security to Windows 7.  To boot, Apple doesn't provide users with free antimalware software like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) does.

III. How Long Can Apple Keep up the Charade?

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.

The question remains how long Apple can continue to manage to deceive its customers and obfuscate the fact that its platform has malware on it, and that the threat is growing.

But the line still seems to be working on the most gullible of Mac users.  For example in our coverage of the MacDefender infection one pro-Apple commentator and self proclaimed "expert", "TonySwash" wrote:

In the real world actual and successful malware attacks on Macs are virtually unknown, and if there are any at all the number is vanishingly small.


The really embarrassing thing is not that Windows get's (sic) all that malware, that's just the result of piss poor design decisions going back decades, what's really shameful is the way that some Windows fans choose to deal with this reality. They deny it. It's not Microsoft or Windows faults (sic), it's everybody's problem, or if it's not everybody's problem then its (sic) some sort of perverse reflection of Windows strength (sic).

Eventually Apple may have to face the music, though, particularly if customers take legal action against it for feigning ignorance, now that corporate documents have revealed that Apple is well aware of the attacks on its platform.

There's plenty of things you can fault Microsoft and the Windows platform for, but one thing you can say in their favor is that at least when they encounter malware they try to help customers and counter rather than claiming their products are "magic" and have no problems.

Comments     Threshold

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By hiscross on 5/20/2011 3:16:10 PM , Rating: -1
"Microsoft actually helps protect its customers from malware programs and acknowledges they exist. It even offers its customers free protection." Hell Ya they do because their products need protection. At work our laptops have fully disk encryption, malware and anti-virus. With i5 and i7 processors and 4 GB RAM and a 7200 RPND HD they run like an 8088 DOS machine of the 80’s. On the other hand our Mac’s run 1000% faster and cost the same. Also we only have 1 support person for our Macs and he does 90% support helping Win 7 people. Finally, my company has over 70,000 employees world-wide and the Mac - PC ratio is now 55% Mac and 45% PC. The iPhone has replaced RIM and the iPad is quickly reducing our PC laptops. Times have Changed and in our case, for the better.

RE: Microsoft
By themaster08 on 5/20/2011 3:21:16 PM , Rating: 5
Perhaps your members of staff should stop clicking anything they see on Facebook and downloading pr0n when they're supposed to be working.

RE: Microsoft
By cjohnson2136 on 5/20/2011 3:27:41 PM , Rating: 1
I would agree. I get laptops and desktops and I never have any issues with viruses or malware but the second i hand it down to my parents it gets shit all over it.

You can't say Mac is better just because you don't get malware. From the article you can determine that Macs can get malware and its growing.

All malware that a computer gets is not the FAULT of the OS but the fault of the user. If the user is stupid enough to downloading anything that pops up then so be it. But that is not an excuse to condemn the product. Stupid people need to have computers taken away. Do this and 99% of malware will disappear.

RE: Microsoft
By hiscross on 5/20/11, Rating: -1
RE: Microsoft
By themaster08 on 5/21/2011 3:20:56 AM , Rating: 3
Well from your OP you're either flat-out lying, or you need more competent I.T support, and staff re-training.

are up stupid by birth or just worked your way up to that level? Just wondering
Since this comment is neither informative or well thought out, I'm going to say you're playing the BS card.

Sure, it's Microsoft's fault that those computers are running slow. It's Microsoft's fault that your fellow members of staff download whatever crap that catches their eye, infecting their machines with their blind curiosity. It's Microsoft's fault that your I.T support have no clue how to secure and maintain a computer (of which all can be automated).

Perhaps you're the one who should be asking yourself these questions, instead of coming here and bashing Microsoft for things that are clearly the issue of your counter-productive members of staff and the competnecy of your I.T support

RE: Microsoft
By damianrobertjones on 5/21/2011 8:10:18 AM , Rating: 5
Did you just make all of that up? Really, did you?

I look after around 120ish pcs in work and although that's not exactly a lot, but I really do think that you're talking out of your rear.

p.s. ANY I.T. person worth their pay packet would NOT put an iPad into a large corporate environment as the thing cannot be locked down by Group policy. No group policy means wide open and we ALL know how wide open Apple products are. iPad on the net, connected through to the network means a nice easy way in for all the crap out there.

P.s. We only run our machine with a pretty standard core 2 cpu and not one person complains about the speed.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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