Security

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I happen to have the ‘good fortune’ of having more than one Apple Fanboy amidst my network of associates and they are all downplaying the latest round of Flashback-based malware infections on the Mac as being ‘unusual’ and ‘nothing to worry about’ and they still insist that installing anti-malware software is pointless.  Same thing they have been telling me for just about a decade.

Contrary to what the Fanboys say, Mac OS X has been hit with viruses and worms in the past.  Flashback is not the first. Malware specifically targeting the Mac OS X platform starting appearing as early as 2004.  Apple computers have never been ‘immune’ to malware and spyware, contrary to Apple’s advertising, and Apple computers have been part of the earliest history of virus development, beginning with Elk Cloner which predates the first PC virus “Brain” by about 4 years.  Yes, owners of Apple products had to worry about viruses four years before PC users did…

Here’s the a small sample of the kinds of malware targeting Apple computers that I could dig up in a quiet evening at home from the web. This list of Apple Malware is far from complete:

  • 1982 - Mac Virus Elk Cloner (created by Richard Skrenta).  A boot sector virus attacks the Apple II.  This predates the first virus on Windows computers, so Apple computers got viruses before PC’s did. Dwindling market share protected the Apple computers–just wasn’t worth the hacker’s effort.
  • 1992 – INIT 1984 – Triggers on Friday the 13th on any computer running MacOS (pre-OS X)
  • 1994 - Mac Virus INIT-29-B  modifies system files and applications, crashes the early Macs.
  • 1995 - HyperCard Virus HC-9507 embeds itself in all HyperCard stacks.
  • 1987 - nVIR Virus. Spread by infected floppies.
  • 1988 - HyperCard viruses start appearing
  • 1990 - MDEF (Garfield) infected the operating system files.
  • 1998 - Hong Kong / AutoStart 9805 infects via the AutoPlay feature of QuickTime.
  • 1998 - Sevendust / 666
  • 2004 - OSX /Renepo (opener) script worm
  • 2006 - OSX/Leap-A (OSX.Oomp). First ‘official’ Mac OS X virus. Actively infects via iChat buddy lists.
  • 2006 - Inqtana worm and virus
  • 2006 - Macarena - Proof of Concept worm
  • 2007 - BadBunn; also OSX/RSPlug (DNS Changer) – Persisted till 2011 due largely to the myth that Macs are immune, so Mac users did not patch or protect their systems.
  • 2008 - MacSweeper scareware, Imunizator scareware
  • 2008 - AppleScript.THT that spreads via the Remote Desktop Agent feature by using a tunnel to hide  itself from the firewall and allow remote hackers complete access and control of the Mac.
  • 2008 - OSX.Lamzev.A - Opens a backdoor to allow hackers to control your Mac remotely
  • 2008… Continue reading

I’m paranoid about the web, and with good reason.

The #1 way hackers get into computers today is through your web browser from an infected website.  The battle for control of your computer has spread from e-mail and attachments. Another battlefront has opened up on your web browser.  A large number of big-name sites have been hacked recently and nobody is completely sure just what the hackers made off with.  Hackers use DNS spoofing to trick computers into coming to an infected website, so you can’t completely be sure that you ended up on the website you intended to visit. They also buy up common misspellings of big sites to catch anyone that makes a typo.

Hackers have been using SQL injection vulnerabilities to break into websites for years (it is in fact one of the primary ways hackers get into a server), and these vulnerabilities still go unpatched. Now they are infecting websites in order to set up complex computer/browser/plugin fingerprinting engines that detect vulnerable versions.  These engines deliver attacks custom-tailored to infect the visitor’s computer with slimy botware.  Take out the cookies, pop-ups, plugins and JavaScript and you’ve stripped your attack surface these engines can attack, down to just your web browser. But this makes browsing less user friendly and a lot more frustrating in the short term, and confusing for people who aren’t technical.

Of course, whenever someone starts talking about a really secure platform, the Mac fanboys jump right in to tell me how secure Apple MacOS is–never mind that the MacOS/Safari combo gets hacked every year (2007200820092010,2011)  during PWN2OWN at CANSECWEST.  Never mind that the hackers have now developed a crimeware kit for the Mac, which means Mac users will need to be on the lookout for a deluge of malware from now on.

With so much dangerous malware and so many threats, how do I stay secure online?

READ MORE: Browser inSecurity – How I Stay Protected Online

From M86 Security Labs comes a blog post showing ‘explosive’ growth in malicious spam, originating from the Cutwail, Festi and Asprox botnets.

Thought your Mac was secure?  Did you know it is possible to turn the battery into a dead brick, or worse, possibly make it overcharge? How about permanently infect your computer (at least until the battery is replaced)?

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