Home Operating Systems Mac OSX Why Mac Malware Is a Possiblity
Why Mac Malware Is a Possiblity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Friday, 06 May 2011 16:55

Ed Bott wrote an article on May 2nd and a follow-up article on May 5th about the future possibility of Mac malware.

Just as Ed mentioned in one of his artciles, I'm not writing a Windows-vs-Mac article. This time anyway.

Malware, in it's most common modern form, is software that is installed, usually using trickery of some sort, to generate money for the authors of said malware. It is sometimes in the form of code or an executable program that exploits a hole in a web browser's code that allows the program to run in your computer's memory and do whatever it wants.

Operating system creators and manufacturers, as well as software vendors, have gone to great lenghts to find these holes before releasing their software, but sometimes these things are still missed when you're talking about thousands of lines of programming code.

These malware creators will then get your computer to start prompting wildly about infections that are not actually there, either via message popups in your operating system, forcing your browser to the same page or not allowing it to browse the internet at all, and many other various annoying things that usually render a computer unusable.

Why do they do it? To generate revenue. Usually, you'll have a link or info on each and every one of these popups that will try to get you to buy some fake antivirus software.  Once you pay up, the infection goes away. Well, at least its annoying popups do. I've seen names ranging from "Antivirus 2011" to "Windows Virus Defender".

Why is the Mac a possible target? As you can see in this Ars Technica article, one of the malware items that has been looked into includes code within for a program called "Mac Defender 2011". This means that an exploit is already in the wild. It appears from the screenshot to prompt in a similar way to the Windows version of the same malware, nagging you constantly and warning you that you have many viruses, when in reality, the program telling you that you are infected IS the virus.

The Mac will become a more targed platform due to it's market share, it is inevitable if it gains even further popularity.

It isn't always a case of the classic Mac vs. Windows argument that one is better than the other that can make this a reality. Most of the malware in question here is installed by sneaky social engineering. Basically, the user is fooled into clicking on a link or installing a program, usually thinking it is something else that is legit, such as a movie, a song, or even a game or document file, and authorizes it to run. This is done when they authorize it in a Windows UAC prompt, or enter their Administrator password in OS X.

So, regardless of the type of computer you are using, surf the web carfully, and only interact with legit websites. Check the address bar if you have any doubt of the authenticity of well known websites. Most use SSL, particualrly sites for stores, banking, insurance, etc. In this case, you will see a lock indicator in your browser of some sort, and the web address with start with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://.

Help do your part to keep malware from spreading!