Malware Targets Macs and Windows PCs

red question mark Apple’s image of invulnerability to security exploits is history. Essentially  there is no difference between Mac and Windows computers when it comes to security.  In fact Mac users might be more vulnerable than Windows users because the belief that  “Macs don’t suffer from malware” is so wide spread.  In truth, Mac malware exists and its production is proliferating.

Malware – short for malicious software – is an umbrella term that refers to any software program deliberately created to perform an unauthorized and often harmful action.

It’s not always easy to tell if your computer has been invaded and infected with viruses or other malware. If your computer ‘freezes’ frequently, or start running slowly, and/or you see unexpected messages or images those may be symptoms indicating it has been compromised.

If you are a blogger who streams movies then does this sound and look familiar?

Every time I save or update a post or page in my blog, it automatically adds this code/script to the end. I try deleting it, and it just adds it again when I save.

codec-M 1.0.0.1

codec-M 1.0.0.1

Most likely you have experienced a movie player prompting you to install the Codec-M 1.0.0.1 to watch a streaming movie and complied. What you installed was a  Firefox Add-On called “codec-M 1.0.0.1″ and you will need to disable if you don’t want to experience this over and over again.

How do you know a source is untrustworthy?

  1. Any website that prompts you to install a “codec,” “plug-in,” or “certificate” that comes from that same site, or an unknown site, merely in order to use the site, is untrustworthy.
  2. A web operator who tells you that you have a “virus,” or that anything else is wrong with your computer, or that you have won a prize in a contest you never entered, is trying to commit a crime with you as the victim.
  3. “Cracked” copies of commercial software downloaded from a bittorrent are likely to be infected.
  4. Software with a corporate brand, such as Adobe Flash Player, must be downloaded directly from the developer’s website. No intermediary is acceptable.

Malware targets popular Mac browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, in addition to other apps. Mac OS X versions 10.6.7 and later have built-in detection of known Mac malware in downloaded files and the recognition database is automatically updated daily. However, that protection against trojans is useless against about 85% of the Mac malware that has appeared thus far in 2012, which used Java vulnerabilities and social exploits to install behind the back of the built-in anti-malware protection.

javaWindows PCs and Macs are equally at risk. If you have the Java plugin and use any of these browsers, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari then your computer is vulnerable. All currently-supported versions of Java, including Java 5, Java 6 and Java 7, contain a bug letting attackers install malware on the system. Instructions for disabling Java in the major browsers can be found on the US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) website.

Related post: Bloggers: Beware of Adware

21 thoughts on “Malware Targets Macs and Windows PCs

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  5. I continually see ads for a malware program called “MacKeeper” showing up on a lot of websites, both those of large companies and small sites like blogs. I had accidentally clicked on the icon a couple of years ago and had a difficult time getting rid of the malware, which takes over the Mac’s system and continually alarms that it’s found all kinds of viruses and trojan horses and such that, of course, do not exist. I wonder why these websites seemingly are unable to remove these ads from their pages, given that “MacKeeper” is not a new malware program and should be well-known by now. It doesn’t install itself in your Mac’s Applications folder, but rather places itself in the “Contents” area of the Mac’s system. What a pain! Thanks.

  6. Reblogged this on TechsWrite: The Helpful Techie and commented:
    Please note that this exploit TimeThief refers to is regarding the Java browser plug-in. Stand alone programs written in Java (such as those packaged as .jar files) are okay, of course, considering you get them from trustworthy sources.

  7. Thanks TT for exposing the flaws of Apple’s security measures. In fact, no operating system is completely secure. The only reason Mac OS was originally secure was because it followed the design principles of the OpenBSD operating system which in turn followed from Unix, just like Linux.

    Since Linux and OpenBSD are open source, a person who’s machine is infected with a virus can easily analyze, and if need be format, his system and cure it.

    Also, since Mac OS is slowly becoming the predominant OS in the consumer market, expect to see a lot more Mac OS targeted viruses and other malware.

    • I’m a Linux user myself and you said it so well, Varun, really– no one is completely immune. Linux/BSD/and other UNIX-like systems besides Mac are still in the minority, but the gist I’ve got from the community is best user practices are still important and nothing to really slouch on.

    • Hi Varun and jaklumen
      Thanks so much for chiming in on this you two. I do appreciate it. Heightened user awareness and across operating systems is what’s needed these days.

  8. Interesting article. I have heard the “macs are invulnerable to viruses” stories. For a while, anyways, they were. I have used macs for about 3 years and as far as I know, have never gotten a virus. I do believe that being closed-source, macs, iPhones, and iPads are slightly more protected, considering that there is a limit to what even the user can do. Mac viruses are defenitely out there, though. Through file sharing, cookies, scams, and more is how they get around. The first step of protection is to get Adblock plugins for browsers. Then be careful with what you download after that.

    • Hi there,
      We’ve all heard the invulnerability mantra. Clinging to that thinking can make Mac users vulnerable but your advice is universal: we all need to be cautious about what we download.

  9. Hi tt,

    Well, we aim to please ;)

    The only reason I opted for an iPad is that the Android apps that worked so well on my phone, are horribly clunky on an Android tab and, while I don’t get out much, I do like to stay in touch when I do, and typing on a phone screen gets tedious very quickly.

    While the iPad does what I want it to – and will do a lot more as I get more familiar with it – the Jobsian obsession for making it a sealed box should have been buried with the dysfunctional clown. Ditto for Flash.

    I mean, seriously, what’s the point of a computer – and not a cheap one – that can’t even connect to much of the Web, or to a printer? And no, Apple fans, the wi-fi connection apps don’t work – not the Hewlett Packard one anyway.

    File transfers work well enough using Dropbox, and security can be beefed by deleting the copy that remains on Dropbox. And Apple really need to get their collective heads around the fact that not everyone has a Mac with which to interact with iPads – some of us use Windows.

    Where iPad really scores, though, despite its faults, which are many, is with the battery life, which is excellent (about 80% of the internal space is taken up by a huge battery.. And unexpectedly, the single mono speaker is really rather good. What I also wanted it for is, if I’m ever hospitalised again – which is looking increasingly likely, that I can publish blog posts on the spot – tweets too. Or, at least, write them and stash them in Dropbox.

    • Hi Ron,
      I don’t have an ipad. My husband has just acquired one and his reasoning re: choosing an ipad over an android phone is the same as yours. Thanks so much for the informed contributions you make to my blog.

  10. Interesting. I recently bought an iPad 3 (I know, I’m sorry!), and was assured by Apple’s website that it was completely immune to, well, everything. I simply don’t believe it – if a device is capable of connection to the Internet without protection then, sooner or later, it’ll become infected.

    If Apple insist it can’t be done, there are bound to be people out there only too willing to prove them wrong.

    • Hi Ron,
      I snorted and then I laughed when I read your first sentence in your comment. I’m with you on this.

      We PC users have heard Mac owners blather on and on about invulnerability to security exploits as computer technicians and security technicians roll their eyes skyward. Do a Google search for Macs and security exploits in 2012 and you will uncover the truth. http://tinyurl.com/9rjccqs

      Those who have Macs need to listen up, stop reciting that silly invulnerability mantra and get with the program. Among the biggest but not the only security threats to both Windows and Mac computers at this time is Java browser plugins. I disabled Java plugins on my browser, not Javascript.

      How do I know if I have Java installed on my Mac?
      Mac OS X 10.6 and below: Apple’s Java comes pre-installed with your Mac OS.
      Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and above: Java is not pre-installed with Mac OS X versions 10.7 and above. To get the latest Java 7 from Oracle, you will need Mac OS X 10.7.3 and above. http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/topics/security/alerts-086861.html

      • Appreciate the clarification that Javascript is not Java– they just have similar names. I ask that it also be clarified that it is the browser plug-in that is vulnerable. Stand-alone Java, like programs packaged as .jar files, are okay. At least, that’s what I’m gleaning from my tech news feeds, reading comments in forums from developers that use Java. I don’t mean to say you haven’t been clear– you most clearly have (disable Java in the browser) but I suspect some might miss this distinction. Thanks.

        • Thank you again. There have been a few articles at Ars Technica recently about the Java vulnerability, but many developers and programmers commenting on the accompanying forum are very frustrated that Ars staff have not made this distinction, that it’s the browser plug-in specifically that is vulnerable. I appreciate your extra emphasis.

          • I’m not a technically inclined person but you are and I’m extending you a standing invitation to submit guest articles for publication here. I have been reading and noting the lack of distinction too. The Java desktop framework is not a big security risk but the browser plugin is. Apple removed a Java plugin from all Mac-compatible Web browsers. The advice I’ve read from security experts across the board is that users like me who don’t regularly use Java should uninstall it from their systems to reduce vulnerability to hacking. They all say we ought to reduce our vulnerability to hack attacks by uninstalling unneeded apps and that sounds sensible to me.

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