At the start of the month, in what was the largest attack on the Apple OS to date, a beleaguered Apple released two security patches to address flaws in their Java code that had enabled malware to infect over 600,000 computers. According to Symantec, in just 2 weeks consumers downloading the security patches dropped the number of infected computers from 600,000 to 140,000, where it seems to have stagnated. Symantec urges consumers that suspect their Mac has been infected with OSX.Flashback.K, to install the latest patches, and ensure that your antivirus is up to date.
But the problem doesn’t end there as a new variant has sprung up. Sound familiar? It should. Apple has grown in relevance to now face the same frustrations as the Windows platform – fix a hole and watch hackers find a new angle.
On April 23rd, the New York Times reported that “researchers at Intego, another computer security firm, discovered that a new variant of the malware, called Flashback.S, continued to spread through the same Java vulnerability. Security researchers said the variant was “actively being distributed in the wild” and noted that the malware deletes traces of itself on victims’ machines to avoid detection.
Today (April 24th) the Wall Street Journal reported that security firm Sophos released new research that analyzed “100,000 Mac computers running its free anti-virus software, and discovered that one in five machines was found to be carrying one or more instances of Windows malware.” And that “2.7 percent (one in thirty six) of Macs were found to be carrying Mac OS X malware.”
The Journal article included comments from Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, who said “Some Mac users may be relieved that they are seven times more likely to have Windows viruses, spyware and Trojans on their Macs than Mac OS X-specific malware, but Mac malware is surprisingly commonly encountered. Mac users need a wake-up call about the growing malware problem.”
“The simple fact is that you can scan your Mac for infection from your armchair. The test is painless and free; you just download an anti-virus product and allow it to check your computer and protect it against infections in the future,” explained Cluley.
At the end of the day the question is this, will Mac users be any better than Windows users at securing their devices with anti-malware tools?