How Flashback Virus Infected Mac Computers
The ‘Flashback’ virus crawled out of a group of WordPress blogs last month and went on to infect over 600,000 Mac computers, costing Google untold thousands of dollars. It takes those dollars from users’ advertisement clicks by diverting Google traffic to a site set up by the hackers where they hijack it. Google never even knows about the clicks and the hackers are laughing all the way to the bank.
Flashback was a Trojan called ‘Flshplyr’ disguised as an Adobe Flash Player update. It redirected search queries that were made using Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers. Experts estimate that with 25,000 new infections each day, the hackers were raking in as much as $450 daily.
Apple Strikes Back
Apple fought back in April, releasing an update that kicks Flashback off your computer. If it finds this malware, it takes it out and lets you know with a dialog box. The virus got in by exploiting Apple’s Java programming weaknesses. Through these weaknesses, the hijackers are able to control the malware remotely even though it’s on your computer.
Mac Under Attack
Internet security experts say that this kind of attack is nothing new, but there are a few things about it that have Mac users worried. First of all, this kind of attack hasn’t been done on such a scale before. Even more serious is the fact that one of the reasons Mac users love their machines is that they’re so safe and malware-free. The hackers have been honing their chops on PC computers for years and now they’re aiming their attacks at Macs.
Lots of Mac users have operated under the mistaken impression that their computers were safe. However, there’s a report that’s just been released by a research firm called Sophos that may disturb you. The study sampled 100,000 of its customers’ computers and found that 1 in 5 Macs are carrying some kind of malware. The malware isn’t apparent unless you run Windows on your machine.
What if you don’t run Windows? You’re still not safe. The study also found that as many as 3% of all Macs have Mac OS malware. These can be downloaded through email attachments, installing it through USB drives without realizing it, or visiting certain websites. Like Flashback, the malware is usually disguised as a fake antivirus attack.
Protecting Yourself from Attacks
Why are hackers suddenly taking on Macs? Although the exact reason isn’t known, experts in the security community believe it’s because of the lax attitude of Mac users about computer security. We believe our machines are invisible so we don’t bother to install the proper protection.
What can you do to protect your Mac? A good starting point would be to stop thinking it’s safe. You need to take all of the same precautions whether you’re running Windows on it or not. While the number of Macs infected that don’t use Windows is now low, keep in mind that your Mac is a target for hackers. The future will see them doing everything they can to get into it.
Here are some things you can do:
l Install an antivirus program and keep it up to date. Whenever an update is offered, get it and install it.
l Be careful about what links you click on. The Flashback trojan was installed in part through rogue websites.
l Be especially careful about email scams. Most of us are, but hackers and spammers are getting more sophisticated in their methods. Take a good look at company logos and ‘from’ email addresses before you open anything.
l Update software patches frequently.