I can remember my days of being on the technical support floor and getting those dreaded calls from Mac users. Those who have ever given technical support for Macs are nodding their heads with me because they are all too familiar with that feeling. At the start of the call, I would always have a glimmer of hope that it would be a simple fix. A cross of the fingers and a little prayer to myself was just not enough. It seemed that my customers would ALWAYS have the more complex issues. Their problem was most likely related to “something” with their operating system, but this “something” was NEVER a virus. See, during those times, all Macintosh owners were led to believe that their operating systems were not prone to virus attacks, so this would mean [literally] hours and hours of troubleshooting never to locate a problem.
The idea that Mac computers weren’t prone to viruses has recently become a thing of the past with the Flashback Trojan taking center stage. The malware has infected over 600,000 Mac computers initially under the guise of an Adobe Flash Player update which has now morphed into an exploit of a Java vulnerability on OS X. With the latest variant of the trojan, the security holes in Java allowed Flashback to install itself onto users’ system through means as simple as visiting a website containing Flashback. The deception didn’t end for those not running Java as the trojan took on the form of what appeared to be legitimate installers (i.e. Adobe Flash). Users were unable to determine that the Adobe download was not a real update and blindly downloaded the malware to their systems. Once on the system, the malware went to work obtaining administrator privileges on the OS and intercepted confidential information such as usernames and passwords for the sites users were visiting. This started out as an App-solute disaster!
Apple has counteracted the malware by developing a security patch which prevents the Flashback trojan from further exploiting users’ systems. The patch is only available for Mac OS X v10.6, Snow Leopard and OS X Lion. If users are running an earlier version, it is recommended that they disable Java in all available browsers. The patch seems to be working for most users as the number of infected systems are on the decline, but ensuring security updates are applied is likely to keep new users from being infected.
Have Mac computers now become vulnerable to the dark shadows of the Internet? With their growing popularity, I am sure that we can expect to see future security threats surface for them. And, of course Apple will come in “treading softly” to implement a fix.