Adware Being Seen More Often On Mac Computers
May 16, 2014

Mac Adware And Spyware On The Rise

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

Malware makers may be many things – but stupid isn't one of them. Those who have created adware and spyware know that you need to go where the masses are. That used to be the PC, which is why Windows was for so long a prime target for adware.

While the folks at Apple won't have reason to celebrate, there are reports that more and more OS X users on the Mac platform are falling victim to adware and spyware infections. It is still less common than those on Microsoft Windows-based computers, but this rise of malware on the Mac could mean the platform has truly arrived.

Adware and spyware isn't as truly malicious as computer viruses that can steal personal data, but these programs can be increasingly difficult to remove. These programs are often bundled with popular freeware applications. One well known example is "Genieo," which essentially hijacks a web browser's start page, changes the default search engine and - worst of all - presents "contextual advertising" as search results.

"Several Mac users have complained about nuisance toolbar issues," said Bitdefender Chief Security Researcher Catalin Cosoi via a statement. "This small tool is designed to address those issues simply and efficiently. Even if the toolbars don't pose an immediate danger to user's system or data, they can be an endless source of aggravation."

Bitdefender has released its Adware Removal Tool for Macs, and this program can reportedly remove all traces of this software while resetting changes to the browser that were made by adware – including unwanted ads and modified search provider.

This tool specifically recognizes and removes Genieo. While that program has its own uninstaller reported that "users have regularly reported that it doesn't work or it leaves active software behind." also noted that Genieo's contextual advertising method isn't all that different from the way that a search on Google works, but the results presented on Google are clearly marked as ads. Those using a computer infected with Genieo Adware won't see such a distinction. Moreover, it was reported that, after a search, this particular adware will send search information back to Genieo for indexing.

The rise of adware on Macs is a sign that those involved want to leave no would-be user behind.

"Adware has become a major issue on all operating systems, regardless of their vendor, mostly because potentially unwanted applications are frequently bundled with very popular freeware programs," Cosoi told WLTX19.

Genieo reportedly showed up last spring, and TheSafeMac reported that it was attached to fake Flash updates from Genieo partner Softonic. The installer apparently masquerades itself as a necessary Adobe Flash Player and installs the app without user interaction. It can add dynamic libraries to the Safari browser on the Mac, intercepting searches that were intended for Bing or Google.

What is also noteworthy about this particular adware is that it was developed by Genieo Innovation, which specializes in personalized home page software. It has been reported that the company claims its business is built around "optional" search modifying software – but security researchers at Sophos have added it to their threat list in the category of Viruses and Spyware: Trojan: Adware.

Genieo has also earned the distinction of being listed on VirusTotal – with 20 out of 50 surveyed anti-malware solutions declaring it adware. These firms including Avast!, Comodo, Dr. Web, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Trend Micro and Sophos.