Gartner: Beware of Mac OS spyware

Research firm Gartner has issued a warning to companies using Mac OS to guard against malicious code attacks and spyware.Just a week after Symantec caused uproar in the Mac community by warning the OS X operating system was quickly becoming a target for hackers and viruses, Gartner has warned businesses reliant on the Mac to guard against 'spyware infestations'.

Research firm Gartner has issued a warning to companies using Mac OS to guard against malicious code attacks and spyware.

Just a week after Symantec caused uproar in the Mac community by warning the OS X operating system was quickly becoming a target for hackers and viruses, Gartner has warned businesses reliant on the Mac to guard against 'spyware infestations'.

Martin Reynolds, vice president of Gartner's Dataquest organisation, said last week although the overall Mac userbase is relatively small, just one vulnerability exploit could cause trouble.

"The Macintosh installed base is relatively small, with only about three percent of systems in use today running the Mac OS... The Mac OS is also a harder target... However, it only takes one exploited weakness to cause trouble," said Reynolds in a research note.

He added that a Mac-only worm would be unlikely to spread very quickly but it might be possible to create a hybrid worm that attacks both the Mac and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

"If an infected Macintosh attempts to spread a worm, it will reach a system resistant to that infection 97 percent of the time. A hybrid worm targeting both the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows could be developed, but such an attack would be difficult to orchestrate," said Reynolds.

He was also concerned that spyware targeting the Mac OS could establish itself before its existence was widely documented.

"Although it is almost nonexistent on the Mac platform today, problem spyware could emerge. Spyware that exploits vulnerabilities can establish itself more deeply in the system, becoming both harder to detect and harder to remove. Don't assume that your Macintosh systems are immune from viruses and other malicious-code attacks," said Reynolds.