Mac malware brouhaha: Are Apple users no longer safe?

Mac users don't need virus protection...right?

Mac users don't have to worry about malware, right? Well, for many years that's been true, although the reasons were always the topic of contentious debate between the Apple faithful and various security researchers, many of whom predicted Mac security breaches would rise as Apple's share of the PC market climbed northward.

A new report suggests this may be happening now. ZDNet blogger Ed Bott reported Wednesday that a malicious app called MAC Defender (among various aliases) is afflicting more Mac users than previously thought.

In the first of two Wednesday posts, Bott includes a transcript of a phone interview he conducted with an unnamed AppleCare support representative, who claims that "many, many people" are falling for the MAC Defender attack.

AppleCare's call volume is four to five times higher than normal, the source says, and the majority of the calls are related to the malware outbreak.

In a second post, Bott posts several MAC Defender-related user complaints that he culled from the Apple support forums yesterday.

"I found more than 200 separate discussion threads, many of them from people who have been tricked into installing this software and are desperately trying to remove it," writes Bott.

MAC Defender is a fake antivirus program that targets Mac users, according to Intego's Mac Security Blog. Like nearly all malware attacks, it preys on novices.

First, its creators use SEO "poisoning" tricks to get malicious sites placed near the top of search engine results. Unsuspecting users who click certain links are sent to a rogue site, where JavaScript on the page automatically downloads a file. If a specific web browser option is checked -- such as one allowing Safari to open "safe" files after downloading -- the malware file decompresses and its installer appears on screen. If the user clicks "Continue," the rogue app will install.

Intego lists MAC Defender as a "low" risk -- a virus that exists in the wild, but is not widespread at this time. Bott's investigative work, however, suggests that many unsuspecting Mac users have already fallen for this bit of malware trickery.

Perhaps more troubling is the alleged Apple rep's statement that AppleCare's Terms of Service doesn't allow support staffers to help with malware removal. Most of the AppleCare reps do anyway -- with the tacit approval of their immediate supervisors -- but could "face write-ups and even termination" if they're caught, the rep says.

The easy solution, of course, is for Mac users to install (real) antivirus software. And if Mac malware attacks grow in frequency, it wouldn't be surprising if Apple adds antivirus protection to the Mac OS.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applesecuritymalwareantivirus

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?