Hackers hitting Macs with virus

2012-04-06 07:00

San Francisco - The computer security industry buzzed with warnings that more than a half-million Macintosh computers may have been infected with a virus targeting Apple machines.

Flashback Trojan malware tailored to slip past "Mac" defences is a variation on viruses typically aimed at personal computers (PCs) powered by Microsoft's Windows operating systems.

The infections, spotted "in the wild" by Finland-based computer security firm F-Secure and then quantified by Russian anti-virus program vendor Dr Web, come as hackers increasingly take aim at Apple computers.

"All the stuff the bad guys have learned for doing attacks in the PC world is now starting to transition to the Mac world," said McAfee Labs director of threat intelligence Dave Marcus.

"Mac has said for a long time that they are not vulnerable to PC malware, which is true; they are vulnerable to Mac malware."


Dr Web determined that more than 600 000 Mac computers may be infected with Flashback, which is designed to let hackers steal potentially valuable information such as passwords or financial account numbers.

Hackers trick Mac users into downloading the virus by disguising it as an update to Adobe Flash video viewing software.

Apple has long boasted that Windows machines are more prone to hacking than Macs.

Computer security specialists contend that the reason for the disparity was that since most of the world's computers were powered by Windows, hackers focused on systems that promised the most prey.

As the popularity of Macs has soared, so has the allure of hacking Apple operating systems, according to Marcus.

"There has been a significant increase in Mac malware in the last several quarters, so what we've seen with the Flashback Trojan isn't particularly surprising," Marcus said.

"Cybercriminals will attack any operating system with valuable information, and as the popularity of Macs increase, so will attacks on the Mac platform."

Computer users, no matter their operating systems of choice, need to protect machines with tactics including up-to-date anti-virus programs and avoiding risky habits such as opening files or clicking links from unknown sources.

  • Howard Nkosi - 2012-04-06 08:49

    Wouldn't be surprised if this is all Microsoft's doing

      JaimeLeonelYo - 2012-04-06 19:09

      Wow that was a really dumb comment.

      Kerneels - 2012-04-07 13:08

      Huh ??? What an idiotic posting. How can this be Microsoft's doing ? Do you actually know what Microsoft is ?

  • Phillip van Niekerk - 2012-04-06 08:59

    It is possably a Mafia Ring / Cartel conducting this type of crime. As the article states, they are stealing personal information.

  • Rooinek007 - 2012-04-06 09:01

    or alternatively this could simply be hype generated by the anti-virus companies to scare mac owners into buying their product. A smart move seeing as macintosh computers have never been more popular than they are now.

      Phillip van Niekerk - 2012-04-06 09:32

      Spot on Rooi!

  • Manie - 2012-04-06 09:35

    It was only a question of time. The combination of gullible users and smart hackers allowed this to happen. Any operating system's inherent security measures will fail to protect it if one disbles it(in a case of slow connections people tend to disable the scheduled upgrade to save time). Also, the hackers primary tools are: patience, knowledge, and thinking outside the box. Most pc users lack these 3, hence, they are lambs to the slaughter.

  • Kelly - 2012-04-06 11:01

    That is what I like about Mac, these guys are on the ball. There are two patch updates that have been released since yesterday already. If you own a Mac, go to "software update" and instal the Java patch. It is about 75 MB download

      ffaarg - 2012-04-06 11:55

      Sorry Kelly but Apple is notoriously slow to release patches. Every year as the hacker conference they get taken down first. They just recently issued a patch for Java about 2 months after is was fixed on other operating systems. A few years ago it took them over a year to patch a security issue in CUPS. It took Apple about 3 years longer than Windows to get Address Space randomisation and when it did is was a half baked effort. And was only recently applied to iOS. Google "Charlie Miller Mac OS" for an idea of how easy it is to compromise Mac OS. Google "Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle" and you will learn what a real approach to security looks like.

  • Sam - 2012-04-06 11:46

    You can protect yourself from internet viruses by using a Telkom ADSL connection. Basically, Telkom makes sure your ADSL line stays out of service for as much of the month as possible thereby preventing you from downloading malicious viruses.

      Mike - 2012-04-06 12:13


      maritza.meyer - 2012-04-07 14:39

      HAHAHAHAHAHAH hands down the best comment of today. xD

  • pieterr3 - 2012-04-06 15:06

    Hackers hack because they want to show the world that they can easily use the internet to get info off your pc. if they can get all your details to your bank, they still need all that other info when you log into your account, like that RVN number Absa SMS you. so they cant do anything with that info unless they hack a bank institution. they do it to taunt the code writers of the anti-virus and operating symtems. thats why theres new virusses everyday. they try to be ahead. all you have to do is get LEGAL antivirus and operating system and update regularly.

  • cedjonkers - 2012-04-07 09:42

    And I thought my Mac was safe from viruses! No wonder it's been so slow lately! Thought it was the new OS update... Kaspersky to the rescue!

      Kerneels - 2012-04-07 13:23

      I've used Mac and Windows for the last 10 years and cannot understand what everybody is on about. I have yet to get a worm, trojan or virus. The fact remains: STOP DOWNLOADING CRAP or OPENING MAILS TELLING YOU YOU"VE WON THE UK LOTTERY ! Your Mac IS safe from Viruses. A trojan is not a virus. ... and this one won't slow your machine down, neither will the new OS update. Clearly you've missed the point of the article. It's your lack of HDD space and RAM that's causing slow response, or that you have 101 programs open. You should rather stick to a windows machine and not post on a forum about things that you have no clue about.

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