Macs hit by new backdoor attack

Variant from 2004 comes back from dead

Apple antivirus company Intego has discovered a backdoor malware attack targeting Mac users.

Able to infect both PowerPC and newer Intel-based Macs thanks to being written as a universal binary, OSX.HellRTS.D sets out to take complete control of an infected machine, setting itself up as a server capable of doing pretty much what it wants. This will include, downloading software, spewing email, set up screen sharing, accessing files on the Mac, and copying anything it finds on the clipboard.

The company describes infection levels as currently being very low, but warns that the code is circulating on hacker forums, which will give criminals access to it. No threat vectors such as spam attachments are mentioned because none have so far been used, but an infected file seems the most likely attack method.

As with so many of the small number of Mac-specific malware attacks that come up from time to time, this one is a variant of an attack from 2004, the company said, which will sound quaint to Windows users hit by thousands of variants on most days.

Mac malware is still rare enough to be worthy of an individual press release from a security company, something that hasn't been true of Windows malware for two decades. Examples are few and far between to the extent it is almost possible to name them all in a short blog, as Techworld did this week.

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John E. Dunn

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