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Security Experts Warn Of Increasing Malware Attacks For Mac Users

June 12, 2009

Two new forms of Mac OS X malware discovered by security experts are making it easier for Mac users to get hacked, BBC News reported.

Security experts have found cases of OSX/Tored-A – an updated version of the Mac OS Tored worm – and a Trojan called OSX/Jahlav-C on popular pornographic websites.

Members of these sites are being prompted to download a “missing Video ActiveX Object” during log in, but are sent a virus payload instead.

Most viruses have traditionally targeted PC users, but a recent rise in the number of attacks on Mac systems is beginning to make computer users everywhere more vulnerable to hackers.

The small number of Mac viruses had made some users complacent, according to Graham Cluley, a security expert with anti-virus firm Sophos.

He said Mac users sometimes feel invincible because there is a lot less malware on Mac than for Windows, particularly since Apple has marketed their system on the line of ‘you won’t suffer spyware like you would on Windows’, which he says has reinforced people’s attitudes.

“One thing we do know is that you are less likely to be running anti-virus software on a Mac than on a PC,” he added.

The OSX/Jahlav-C is an update to a previous version of Jahlav, according to Sophos. The company said it runs a script that uses http to communicate with a remote website and download code supplied by the attacker.

Cluley warned that the previous virus would download fake anti-virus software that would dupe users into buying a product that would not actually do anything, which would result in hackers obtaining credit card details.

However, he said the present virus is not downloading any code.

“At the moment the virus is not managing to get that [fake anti-virus software] program, but because it is going to a site controlled by hackers, they can change it to download whatever they want,” he said.

Therefore, the virus could prompt users to download keyloggers, data mining scripts, or add their Mac to a future botnet.

“Mac users need to be more aware of potential threats,” said Christopher Phin, deputy editor of Mac Format magazine.

He said the Apple community is guilty of subscribing to the idea that they are removed from security issues, mainly because there are less than 70 viruses affecting Apple computers.

On the other hand, there are literally millions of viruses targeting the Windows operating system, and Phin suggests that the most useful thing people can do is educate themselves on the best practice to avoid getting infected in the first place.

In the past, Mac users did not have the same need for anti-virus software that PC users did, although that could change in the future, he added.

Phin suspects we will see more creative and new ways of exploiting vulnerabilities on all formats and Apple’s growing profile makes it more susceptible to being targeted by malware.

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