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Apple fans targeted by smut-punting malware

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VXers are targeting Mac fans via a pair of new malware-themed attacks, one of which is on offer through what purports to be a portal for adult videos.

The Jahlav-C Mac-specific Trojan poses as an ActiveX update needed to watch grumble flicks, as explained by ParetoLogic here. The same booby-trapped website, which runs code to detect whether surfers are using Mac or Windows PCs, is a equal opportunity infector that also deploys code designs to infect Windows PCs using similar social-engineering trickery.

In addition to the Trojan, Sophos discovered a new strain of the Mac OS X-specific Tored worm on Thursday.

Mac-specific malware remains a rarity compared to the hundreds of thousands of Windows-specific virus strains, of course. However, it would be a mistake for Mac fans to think they are immune from malware when downloading warez or hunting for porn. "It is becoming more and more common for hackers to use social engineering tricks - like telling surfers that they need to download a plugin on their Mac to watch a video - to weasel their way onto computers," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

"Once the malware is running on your computer, it can download further code from the internet - opening the door for your computer to be infected by scareware, send out spam, or become part of a zombie botnet. Windows users are used to fighting malware, but many Mac users are oblivious to the battle taking place for control of the public's computers."

Last year Apple flip-flopped on advice about whether Mac users ought to run anti-virus software. On a site devoted to the security features of Snow Leopard, the next version of its Mac OS X operating system, Apple states anti-virus software "may offer additional protection".

The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box. However, since no system can be 100 percent immune from every threat, antivirus software may offer additional protection.

The security benefits of Macs over PCs have featured more prominently in Apple's marketing collateral, so the muted endorsement is not that surprising. Even Apple's grudging acknowledgment of the possible benefits of third-party anti-virus, in addition to built-in technologies such as sanding, was enough for Mac security specialist Intego to herald a change of heart in recognising the "virus and malware threat to Mac OS-X", as it put it. ®

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