Mac users finally waking up to security

Following a number of attacks against OS X in 2006, Mac users are finally getting the message that they are not immune, according to an IT security manager responsible for over 5,000 Apple systems.Just over a year ago, Mark Borrie from the University of Otago in New Zealand, said that Apple users were their own worst enemy when it came to security, because they considered themselves immune from attack.

Following a number of attacks against OS X in 2006, Mac users are finally getting the message that they are not immune, according to an IT security manager responsible for over 5,000 Apple systems.

Just over a year ago, Mark Borrie from the University of Otago in New Zealand, said that Apple users were their own worst enemy when it came to security, because they considered themselves immune from attack.

However, since that time Apple has been the subject of much debate as researchers found the first Mac-targeting malware samples and discovered weaknesses in the platforms' AirPort wireless network system.

Borrie claimed that this new focus on OS X has already increased the level of awareness amongst Apple users.

"That was part of the issue I had last year ... with Mac OS you can get hacked and you can get taken over -- that message is slowly getting through to the key people," Borrie told ZDNet Australia in a telephone interview on Monday.

Borrie explained that he does not expect to see OS X plagued by spyware and replicating viruses that infest Windows systems, but he believes there will be more Mac-related malware.

"Keyloggers are all PC based but there is no reason why those keyloggers couldn't be written for Macs -- but I haven't seen any around yet," he said.

Macs used to control Windows bots?
Borrie said that during the past year he has seen Apple-based systems hacked and then used to control bots of Trojan-infected Windows PCs.

He explained that the hacked Mac systems were left vulnerable because users had employed weak passwords or misconfigured their services.

"We are seeing Macintosh systems being targeted for hands-on hacking as opposed to worms ... In one situation, Macs were being used as a bot net channel in IRC -- they were taking over PCs," said Borrie, who warned that this kind of activity is difficult to recognise because it does not generate much network traffic.

"The problems can be there for months. If somebody breaks into a machine all they are doing is a bit of IRC activity. There is not a lot to trigger a warning. Your traffic loads and processing loads do not increase dramatically," added Borrie.