Besides the chic allure of a glowing apple adorning a paper-thin laptop, owning a Mac offers an exclusive level of security from the large variety of viruses that historically only plagued Windows machines.
While the Mac’s aesthetics are still unrivaled, there’s a growing possibility of finding a worm in the Apple. A rogue virus targeting Mac OS X has surfaced recently, along with several variants. According to an Intego investigation into the malware, MAC Defender, which shares its name with the legitimate antivirus software Mac Defender, is a fake antivirus scanner designed specifically for OS X.
The malicious MAC Defender poses as a virus scanner and appears in search results through SEO poisoning attacks. Internet searches for Mac antivirus display results for the bogus software, and when the malicious links are selected a Java-based scan script window opens and claims to find malware on the user’s computer. If the user falls for this ploy and downloads the software, MAC Defender is installed and immediately creates false notifications about Trojans on the device.
The well-designed layout of the program creates an authentic feel, with clear labels and directions, attractive colors and an overall professional look. By first glance, it could easily be confused for a legitimate service.
After displaying the warning about existing viruses, a screen appears offering to sell an antivirus package. Payment is requested to complete the purchase. In this sense, the program isn’t a typical virus that infects a computer and wreaks internal havoc. Its main function is to steal credit card information. And with its convincing layout, it doesn’t take much more than the suggestion of found viruses to have a concerned owner reaching for a credit card.
The surfacing of this malware is evidence that, contrary to popular belief, Macs are not immune to viruses. It’s necessary to take preventative measures by installing protective software and performing regular scans.
This isn’t a devastating event for Mac owners, when you consider that Windows users have been facing viruses like this one for years. But it does create strong incentive to invest in protection for OS X devices. There are many free and legitimate programs offering quality scanning and security.
A test-run of the Sophos scanner came back with three Trojans detected on my Mac – a machine that was only purchased in December. So, the MAC Defender isn’t the only malicious program out there.
This news isn’t cause for panic or a reason to abandon Apple. Instead, this should be taken as an opportunity to reevaluate your computer’s security level. Do you think it could withstand an attack?