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Virus Targeting Macs Spreads Via IM Program

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  • Joschka Fisher
    Virus Targeting Macs Spreads Via IM Program By Mike Musgrove and Brian Krebs Washington Post Staff Writers Friday, February 17, 2006; D05 A rare piece of
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 17, 2006
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      Virus Targeting Macs Spreads Via IM Program

      By Mike Musgrove and Brian Krebs
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Friday, February 17, 2006; D05

      A rare piece of malicious software targeting Apple's
      Mac OS X operating system -- instead of the more
      common victim, Microsoft Windows -- has been spotted
      online and appears to be spreading. Like many computer
      viruses, the bug lures people to click on it by posing
      as something else, in this case a file containing a
      picture of the next-generation Apple operating system.

      The malicious software causes computer programs to
      crash and transmits itself through an instant message
      program for the Mac called iChat. To get infected,
      users must download the file, called "latestpics.tgz,"
      and install it on their computer. Infected computers
      will then automatically attempt to send the program to
      all contacts on the infected user's "buddy list."

      Mac users typically have not had to worry about the
      computer worms and viruses that regularly hit the
      Windows-using world. It's a regular debate among
      techies whether this is because the Mac operating
      system is inherently more secure or whether computer
      hackers simply do not bother attacking an operating
      system that is not widespread. Apple Computer Inc. has
      less than 5 percent of the U.S. computer market.

      Apple released a statement yesterday warning users to
      download files from only companies they have
      confidence in. "Apple always advises Macintosh users
      to only accept files from vendors and Web sites that
      they know and trust," read the statement. Apple's Web
      site yesterday afternoon did not appear to give Mac
      users any notice of the bug, and a spokesman was
      uncertain whether the company would update its
      operating system in response to this specific threat.

      One software expert who examined the bug's code
      yesterday downplayed its author's programming
      abilities as "lame."

      "Whoever wrote this isn't particularly skillful," said
      Andrew Welch, president of Ambrosia Software Inc., a
      firm that develops programs for Macs. "It's not a very
      viral virus, I'll put it that way."

      Welch examined the code and tested it on a few
      computers. He said the "malware" failed to work on
      most of the machines he tried to infect with it.

      Computer security researchers agreed that the threat
      level posed by this bug is relatively low but said the
      malicious software could inspire more potent copycats
      and mark a new era of threats for previously secure
      Mac users.

      Vincent Weafer, senior director of Symantec Corp.
      security response, called the bug "a proof of

      "Many Mac users feel they don't have to worry about
      viruses and following security best practices," he
      said. "I think we're absolutely likely to see a lot
      more attacks."

      Krebs is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com.

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