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Vulnerabilities / Threats

6/11/2009
05:40 PM
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Mac Users Warned Of Porn Malware Threat

Trojan software presents visitors to certain porn sites with a pop-up message to download a Video ActiveX Object; the download carries Mac malware.

Mac users who surf for porn are being warned to watch out for booby-trapped Web sites.

In the past two days, Sophos, a U.K.-based computer security company, has reported the emergence of two new malware attacks targeting Macs: OSX/Jahlav-C and a worm that belongs to the Tored family of malware.

OSX/Jahlav-C is Trojan software that presents visitors to certain porn sites with a pop-up message indicating that they're missing a Video ActiveX Object. Mac users who agree to download the software end up infected.

Windows users needn't feel left out, however. "The booby-trapped Web sites determine if the victim's Web browser is running on Windows or Mac OS X, and serve up malware specifically designed for the visitor's operating system," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, in an online post on Thursday.

"Although there is much less malware for Mac OS X than there is for Windows, that's going to be little consolation if your shiny new MacBook gets infected," Cluley said. "Many in the Mac community have had their heads buried in the sand for too long about the real nature of the threat."

Cluley insists that hackers are increasingly turning to social engineering tricks to gain access to Macs. Asking a user to authorize the installation of a video plug-in as a precondition for viewing a video is a common social engineering ploy.

Cluley's message may drive sales of antivirus software but it isn't entirely consistent with an observation posted by Sophos security researcher Paul Baccas on Wednesday: "Mac malware can seem like buses -- you see none for ages and then two come along at once."

Even so, hope springs eternal among antivirus software makers that more Mac users will start worrying about security and become customers. Witness the sense of vindication evident in a recent press release from Intego, a Mac security software vendor.

Citing Apple's mention of new security technology in its Snow Leopard operating system as acknowledgment that Macs are vulnerable to malware, Intego CEO Laurent Marteau Intego said, "Apple has finally recognized what Intego has been saying for years: that Macs are not immune to viruses and malware."

Indeed they're not. But being cautious about the Web sites one visits and the software one downloads will still keep most Mac users pretty well protected.


InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on what executives really think about security. Download the report here (registration required).

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