Mac and mobile malware set to increase

Ashleigh Allsopp
28 September, 2011
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Many Mac users believe that Mac OS is not vulnerable to malware, said Catalin Cosoi, Head of Online Threats Lab at security firm Bitdefender, in an interview with Macworld. It’s true that Windows users are much more at risk than Mac users, with just a couple of hundred samples of malware for Mac OS and about 40 million for Windows. However, there are still many threats for Mac users, and Cosoi warns that they’re only going to get worse.

Within the past week we’ve seen security company Intego warn Mac users of a new Trojan horse that masquerades as a Flash Player installation package for OS X Lion. And security firm F-Secure warned against Trojan-Dropper:OSX/Revir.A, which appears as a Chinese-language PDF; open it up and a backdoor connection to a remote server is made.

Mac users should be aware that although there isn’t a huge number of malware samples that target their operating system, malware that was created a year or two ago can still attack. Cosoi said: “Even though you believe you don’t have malware or a virus on you computer, once you install a solution you might have a surprise.”

If your computer is affected by malware, it may not show any symptoms. “Users think that they will know that their computer is effected” Cosoi said. “Modern malware isn’t like that anymore. Modern malware tries to remain undetected as much as possible in order to make use of some of your resources for sending spam to other people, for monitoring your activity at a computer and extract information.”

Mac threats

The biggest threat to Mac OS is fake antiviruses. We saw this earlier in the year with the Mac Defender scam, which tricked users into downloading fake virus protection software, which was in fact a virus itself.

Cosoi advises Mac OS users that real security software is not as ‘scary’ as fake antiviruses. A fake one will show you that you have been on a website, it has scanned your computer and has found viruses. It will then tell you to install the software onto your computer in order to solve the problem, but then attempt to make you pay, or enter personal passwords and information.

Before you download any antivirus software, you should do some background research, says Cosoi. Check independent comparative tests to see which software is best for your needs.

Also a threat to Mac OS is backdoor malware, which is installed on a computer when users visit a website and download files that have hidden malware embedded, often these are pirate films or music for example. The malware will then reside on the system and allow attackers to connect to your computer and extract private information and files.

Cosoi also highlighted malware in Java as a problem, especially with the recent launch of Delphi XE2, a fast way to deliver native applications for Windows, Mac and iOS, including both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows.

Cosoi told us that most malware for Windows is already written in Delphi, which was previously not compatible with Mac OS. He said that the new launch means that attackers “can actually take all the fake antiviruses for Windows and compile them, and pour them on Mac OS.” Because of this “We’re expecting a massive increase of rouge anti-viruses for Mac OS in the following months” Cosoi warned.

Mobile threats

Cosoi reminds us that it is not just malware on our computers that we need to be aware of. We should also remember that mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are vulnerable to malware. “We have had a massive increase in malware for mobile devices for the Android platform” Cosoi informed us. “For instance, we had a 2000 per cent increase of malware on Android compared to last year. Our estimates predict that in the next six months there will be an additional 6000 percent increase.” He added.

According to Cosoi, it’s easy to create basic malware that extracts information from your phone. For example, contact information, GPS position and emails. Once attackers populate the Android market with malware, they’ll probably move to iPhone as well.

For any device, whether mobile or not, there’s always the threat of scams that are platform independent, meaning that every device is vulnerable to these. Bitdefender offers protection for social media, which it highlights as a major threat to internet security, especially with the new Facebook that has been introduced recently. Safego can be downloaded for free to protect Facebook and Twitter users.

Cosoi recommends that if you’re worried about viruses, but are reluctant to pay for protection, you should download a trial version of the Bitdefender software to see if everything is OK with your Mac and go from there.

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