Half a million Macs infected (a dream, dashed)

Half a million Macs infected (a dream, dashed)

Summary: Half a million Macs are infected by a botnet, and all I can think of is this sentence from a 2006 ad: "PCs are not Macs."

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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The dream, of course, being a computer that was resistant to malicious intent.

It was inevitable that as Apple's OS X became increasingly popular, so would hackers' penchant to exploit it.

Our own Emil Protalinski describes the pain today:

Another variant spotted last month asks for administrative privileges, but it does not require them. If you give it permission, it will install itself into the Applications folder where it will silently hook itself into Firefox and Safari, and launch whenever you open one of the two browsers.

And Ars Technica gauges the scope:

According to Dr. Web, the 57 percent of the infected Macs are located in the US and 20 percent are in Canada.

It was less than a year ago that Ed Bott, usually a font of Microsoft news, described the problem from the perspective of AppleCare HQ:

Many frustrated Mac users think their Mac is impervious to viruses and think this is a real warning from Apple.

Topher Kessler posted some tips over at CNET during the last malware run-around, but I can't help but think of what a difficult position this puts Apple in. For years, the company benefited from (and largely left uncorrected) the notion that its underdog operating system wasn't susceptible to the same assault felt by Windows PCs. (Here's a review of the highlights, for tech historians.)

Remember this?

Tech types knew that this was a fallacy, but consumers ate it up enough to make Macs a growing sliver of the PC market. OS X remains a minority around the globe, but its growth in popularity begets growth in attacks. It was only a matter of time. (With BYOD becoming an increasingly popular option in the enterprise, it means more headaches at the office, too.)

The question is how the rise of mobile operating systems will impact this -- and just how long Android and iOS users have before the party's over.

Topics: Apple, Hardware

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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69 comments
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  • Apple falling apart

    Now that Steve Jobs is no longer with us it seems Apple is running in to some bad luck. Lawsuits, China factories, new ipad issues, malware etc etc etc.
    Randalllind
    • Record sales and profits, skyrocketing stock price, and analyst upgrades.

      Yep, the sky is falling.
      matthew_maurice
      • So sales indicate that none of this is happening?

        And Apple isn't running in to some bad luck in the media?
        William Farrel
      • How is any of this relevant?

        The article doesn't say 'Macs get trojans - people have stopped buying Macs'. And most of Apple sales are from iOS devices, not Macs.
        TheWerewolf
      • The tech blogosphere is NOT "the media"

        @William Farrel And a Java vulnerability isn't what I'd call "bad luck." If anything, most stories, like this one, will reference how rare malware has historically been on the Mac. While this isn't great news, this story has less than 24 hours to live.
        matthew_maurice
  • This will be either...

    ...the first of a huge wave of malicious Mac invasions.

    Or just the latest in a decade-long series of false alarms that are forgotten in less than a week.

    Let's see.
    Englishmole
    • To get infected, people have to *want* to download Flash update

      ... from a <b>non</b>-Adobe site, though Flash <b>autoupdates itself</b> anyway. Yes, to get infected, people had to open a non-Adobe page for Flash update.

      There is no protection against twice clueless people.
      DDERSSS
      • This is a drive by

        No user interaction required.

        "There is no protection against twice clueless people."

        I'll look forward to your defense of Microsoft when the next Windows trojan infects 1% of the Windows installed base.
        toddbottom3
      • Except no Windows user would be stupid enough to make that claim...

        @todbottom3

        Microsoft has never made a claim that Windows is 'virus proof' or that users of Windows 'never get malware'. Apple does.

        In fact, quite the contrary - Microsoft gives away free antivirus software, which is kind of an admission that Windows has such attacks and that they want to help limit it.

        Which is kind of the point here - and one you seem to be missing.
        TheWerewolf
      • Nice attempt to spin this.

        What the original article (referenced by Andrew in this article) describes is a no user interaction drive by' infection'. Your description of this issue is not factual ... spin doctor.
        It is a third party exploit ... Java ... not Adobe. Of course, I know you knew this because I read posts you made in the Emil bot net thread describing the java exploit. Awfully transparent ...
        whatagenda
      • You really don't know...

        the average Mac user, do you? Clueless doesn't begin to describe...
        kstap
      • Direct interaction is required

        @toddbottom3, @whatagenda: As I wrote, [b]direct interaction is required[/b], because there is no way how anyone could get infected except for directly opening a non-Adobe site page with supposed "Flash update". Whether any further actions are needed or not is already next step (that depends on version of the trojan).
        DDERSSS
    • 600,000 infections don't count?

      600,000 infections seems like a little more than a 'false alarm'
      Doctor Demento
    • Still, this is a...

      Trojan horse, not a virus. The interesting thing will be the investigation into who is paying the Russian firm to infect Macs. Could it lead to Redmond? Hmmmmm?
      Tony Burzio
    • Mac OS X is based off of BSD a flavor of unix.

      Unix had malware and viruses made for it way before apple modified it to MAc OS X. The Apple commercial was refering to PC viruses. Basicaly a mac is impervious to PC viruses. Of course there would be malware creaed specifically for macs.

      Android OS already has malware which can be easily installed via web browser. even the iphone is not immune to malware which can be installed on to jail breaked phones or through known software exploits.

      Windows will still be the target of choice since it has the most potential with the largest amount of users to infect. There are many novice users out there that have computers infested with malware and don't know it other than their computer runs slow. Thats why we have companies like mycleanPC.com, because malware is that prevalent.

      For Macs install a free virus scanner, much like you would for windows.
      for any computer, always update os patches and software patches.
      learn about social enginering ploys to by pas even the most rigorus security. social enginiering is the ultimate penitration tool for hackers. They often can get into highly secured networks by fooling someone on the inside to giving them access.
      enabling the built in software firewall can help against any incoming connections or attacks it best to have an external firewall and your software firewall enabled, just note that if you get fooled into installing malware your firewall or walls are defeated.
      Bakabaka
      • nowhere in the commercials do they say specifically PC viruses

        nowhere in the commercials do they say specifically PC viruses.
        they say MAC does not get viruses and PC do.
        vl1969
  • Half a million Macs infected (a dream, dashed)

    Time to hold Apple accountable for this, along with their false advertising in their ads. But given it is Apple they will deny its a problem then tell their tech support people not to help anyone like they have done previously.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Time to hold YOU accountable!

      Yet another example of your lies and FUD and attempting to twist the truth. The problem is a [b]trojan[/b] which requires people to visit infected sites or download code containing the malware.

      Apple does [b]not[/b] indulge in false advertising - it would be sued if it did. The claim that Macs are not as susceptible to [b]viruses[/b] is still true.

      If I indulged in emotional rants and told lies about Windows, the MS trolls would be all over me like a rash, but apparently it is perfectly OK to carry on like that about Macs or Linux... Cue the double standards!
      rahbm
      • You have no clue

        If you really think macs are "not susceptible" to viruses... no words... it's software... as all software it can be exploited if you know where to look and it's worthwhile to invest time to do so...

        The "you know where to look" isn't all that hard.. plenty of vulnerabilities have been listed in the past and plenty more will always be there to abuse ... it's the second part that made macs a lesser target ... it's just stone cold facts.. if the total mac marketshare goes up, so will infections as the creators of those attacks gain more to do so.... if the share goes down, again, so will the investment in malicious code...

        But thanks for the laugh... "apples are just incapeble by design to contain a virus"

        You sir, are part of the problem.. I'll laugh when the day comes (and believe me it will), YOUR mac will be infected...
        DJK2
      • YOU simply don't (or won't) understand!

        Mac OS X and Linux are [b]NOT[/b] as susceptible to viruses, simply because of inherently better design. Sure, no software is perfect, but nobody - not even the worst of the Windows fanatics - is claiming that.

        The point of my post is that LD is lying about Apple advertising and support. I most certainly did [b]not[/b] write that [i]"apples are just incapeble (sic) by design to contain a virus"[/i] so please don't imply that I did.

        If it is "stone cold facts" you are after, then:
        1) Windows has [b]FAR[/b] more bugs and vulnerabilities, let alone exploits, than Mac & Linux and all the other operating systems combined. Indeed, Microsoft published a list of over 65,000 [i]known[/i] bugs in Windows 2000. If they had fixed 100 a month, then they still would have only remedied about 20% of them by now. I notice that MS no longer publishes these data... I wonder how many persist in Windows 7?

        2) The "security by obscurity" argument, so long beloved of MS bigots, has long since been totally discredited. Mac marketshare has increased around fivefold, but the rate of virus infections is still negligible.

        I have Macs, Windows, and Linux systems. All run AV software. No virus infections on any of them lately. It was only the Windows machine which had virus problems in the past, so I don't have it online so much anymore. Your vindictive attitude of laughing at other people's problem is disconcerting; I certainly do not laugh or rejoice at [i]anyone[/i] with a malware problem, regardless of the platform.

        What is the problem of which I am part? Daring to suggest that one of the worst MS shills on this site is, at best, making misleading claims?
        rahbm