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Lame Mac 'email worm' limps into view

Riddled with bugs and rather sad

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Virus writers have created a worm that seeks to establish a botnet of compromised Mac machines. But the Tored Mac worm, which attempts to spread via email, is so hopelessly buggy and lame that it's about as likely to score as Steve Ballmer at an Apple convention.

Strains of Mac malware are, of course, dwarfed by factors that run into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, by types of Windows-specific viruses. The small, although growing, number of Mac malware strains that do exist are typically Trojans that pose as video codecs or pirated versions of iWork. Such Trojans commonly frequent multimedia websites (actually run by hackers) or P2P networks.

Tored takes a different approach towards attacking Mac fans - but that's one of the few factors in its favour. Net security firm Sophos explains that Tored is an email-aware worm which attempts to harvest email addresses from Mac machines it infects, before forwarding copies of itself to those targeted accounts.

The malware was created in Tunisia and aims to be the first Mac OS X botnet agent, according to comments in the source code of the malware.

Except a Mac-specific Trojan discovered in April has a better claim to the title "first Mac OS X botnet agent". Furthermore Tored is riddled with so many mistakes it's incapable of doing any harm, Sophos reports.

"Bugs in the worm's code, however, mean it is unlikely that you will ever encounter it, even if the author had taken the time to correct the many spelling mistakes in the emails it tries to send," writes Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos.

The author of the code has adopted a novel approach in order to encourage its spread, or just to apologise for inconveniencing Windows and Linux users. A message in the code reads:

For Mac OS X ! :(If you are not on Mac please transfer this mail to a Mac and sorry for our fault :)

It's hard to view messages like this as anything better than hopelessly lame.

Recent publicity over the Conficker superworm left Mac-specialist security firms well out of the spotlight. Those worried that Mac machines will become the next building blocks for botnets can however sleep tight in the knowledge that virus watchers at Intego maintained a round the clock watch in late March just in case a "Mac OS X variant of this worm should appear". ®

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