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Is Macintosh now a good target for Malware/Scamware?

Macintosh users have been targeted in recent weeks with one of the most sophisticated and clever pieces of scamware ever created. MacDefender has been such a success story for the developer that Apple themselves had to step in to issue warnings (they normally avoid discussing these problems) and are even patching the operating system to deal with the rogue software.

This may very well be the first signs that dodgy developers could be waking up to the growing Macintosh audience and realising that they are several years behind when it comes to protection software. Windows users have been targeted for many years now and there is no shortage of anti virus and anti spyware software available from a wide array of software developers.

This growth in market share for Apple means that more hackers and malware software writers will be sitting eagerly coding their new program to scam people out of credit card information.

The Macintosh has never been immune to malware although it is rare to hear about high profile software such as MacDefender which hit the headlines a short while ago. Many owners of Macintosh computers may not even have any protection software installed, because it has been seen as not being needed. There is software already available, which is sure to be selling better now – programs such as Symantec’s Norton Antivirus for Mac and a 30 day free trial of Trend Micro Smart Surfing for Mac.

MacDefender: It looks like a legitimate software package, but it isn't

Apple have admitted that there are some security problems, by posting a web page with information about MacDefender saying “a recent phishing scam has targeted Mac users by redirecting them from legitimate websites to fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus.”

The Malware is clever, because it convinces users that their machines are infected and that the solution is to install this software. In fact, the software infects the machine causing all the problems. It will occasionally report that the machine is infected and then redirect the browsing to porn sites which will fool users into thinking they are indeed infected. They then pay for MacDefender to ‘cure the problems’. Not the first time a software package like this has been seen on Windows, but it certainly is one of the best ever released on the Mac.

The software in its latest development doesn’t even require the user to enter a password, a common security process for Macintosh users.

Ed Bott has criticised Apple’s somewhat slow response to this malware and has said it is “too little, too late.” Adding “Apple appears to be treating this outbreak as if it were a single incident that won’t be repeated. They seriously underestimate the bad guys, who are not idiots.”

Legitimate security company Trend Micro agree and senior threat analyst Paul Fergusion said “For the past three or four years this whole ‘scareware’ issue has become a real epidemic, solely because it’s so financially lucrative for the criminals.”

Ferguson said that the reasons for these recent attacks “may be an experiment to see how successful they can monetize it.” Working as a kind of “test drive to see if they can increase their monthly revenue.” Not a pleasant thought for OSX owners, who clearly need to be more careful in future.

KitGuru says: OSX still the worlds safest computer platform? Perhaps it is, but users need to educate themselves on potential risks, which are rising every day.

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