GMA News Online

1 in 5 Macs contain malware —study

April 25, 2012 10:21am
Still think your Mac is malware-free? Think again: one out of every five Apple Mac computers may harbor malware, a computer security firm disclosed late Tuesday (Manila time).
The study by Sophos described the level of malware on Mac computers as “disturbingly high,” although it said the malware found included those that can affect machines running Windows.
“Although Windows malware on Macs won’t cause symptoms (unless users also run Windows on their computer), it can still be spread to others,” it said.
On the other hand, it said 2.7 percent or one in 36 Macs that downloaded Sophos’ free anti-virus product were found to be infected by Mac OS X malware.
A breakdown of the malware showed:
  • 75.1 percent included the OSX/Flshplyr, which exploits an unpatched version of Java to turn a Mac into a bot;
  • 17.8 percent included OSX/FakeAV, a rogue antivirus;
  • 5.5 percent included OSX/RSPlug
  • 1.2 percent included OSX/Jahlav
  • 0.4 percent included other types of malware
Flashback (Flshplyr) —which, at one stage infected more than 600,000 Macs— still dominated the list of malware.
Fake anti-virus attacks scare users into handing over their credit card details or installing unsafe software.
“Amazingly, some of the malware discovered by Sophos on the 100,000 Mac computers sampled dates back to 2007, and would have been easily detected if the users had run an anti-virus sooner,” Sophos noted.
Sophos also reminded Mac users malware can spread onto Macs via USB drives, email attachments, website download, or even a silent drive-by installation where the user doesn’t realize their Mac’s security has been subverted.

Cybercriminals targeting Mac users
“Sadly, cybercriminals view Macs as a soft target, because their owners are less likely to be running anti-virus software. Bad guys may also believe that Mac users are likely to have a higher level of disposable income than the typical Windows user. So, they might believe the potential for return is much higher,” it said.
While Sophos said some Apple fans might feel relieved they are seven times more likely to have Windows malware on their Macs than Mac OS X-specific threats, they shouldn’t be.
If they do not act now, Sophos said Mac users risk allowing the malware problem on Macs to become as big as the problem on PCs in the future.
Mac malware like STDs?
Sophos even compared Mac infections to Chlamydia, one of the most commonly transmitted sexually transmitted diseases among young people, with some studies having claimed up to 20 percent of youngsters are infected.
“Just like malware on your computer, Chlamydia commonly shows no obvious symptoms. But left undetected Chlamydia can caused serious problems, such as infertility,” it said.
“The good news is that Chlamydia is easy to treat. And, if it isn’t too tacky to make a parallel, so is malware on Macs,” it added. — TJD, GMA News
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