Apple and its fans have long boasted that Macs are all but immune to viruses and malware that has long plagued Windows computers.
A new threat has emerged, this time targeting Mac users, using a familiar tactic in the Windows world. While browsing the web, users are redirected from a legitimate site to a fake web site telling them that their computer is infected with a virus, and offers to download “Mac Defender” to use it. However, the application is only masquerading as an anti-virus application. In fact, MacDefender itself is the virus, and users who are tricked to installing it have become infected. Once installed, the malicious application (“malware”) shows fake virus infection alerts to attempt to convince users to hand over their credit card information.
Apple posted a Knowledge Base article with instructions for removing this malicious software, or “malware,” and has promised to release a software update that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender and its known variants.
While using anti-virus software has become standard procedure on Windows, few Mac users utilize such protection due to a widespread belief that it isn’t necessary. It is probably true that Apple’s OS X design makes it in general, a safer environment, but the lack of such attacks also has to do with the fact that Macs weren’t popular, with Windows computers were the overwhelming majority. However, this isn’t so true anymore, Apple has become the world’s most valuable technology brand, and its Mac platform has experienced steady growth in recent years.
Similar proof of concepts for potential attacks have been demonstrated by security researchers in the past, but this is one of the first seen “in the wild.”
Mac Defender is unlikely to fool an experienced user, but at the very least is an important reminder to stay vigilant. No matter how secure you think you are, there’s always going to be new attacks, so it’s important to take precautions and keep your operating system and software up to date.