Virus Targeting Macs Spreads Via IM Program
- 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
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
Krebs is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com.
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