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Mac art project game destroys aliens files

Lose / Lose

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A Mac game that deletes users' files has sparked a debate about whether it's malware or not.

The Space Invaders-style game deletes a file from the Mac home directory every time a user destroys an alien ship. The application, released as part of an art project, clearly warns this is what it does... in big red letters (link to video of game here).

Of course malware often thrives on people who ignore warnings, so security firms including Inteco, Sophos and Symantec that produce Mac OS X anti-malware products can't really be blamed too hard for adding virus detections that brand the software as malicious and prevent it from running.

The game/Trojan was created by digital artist Zach Gage under the moniker Lose / Lose and published as part of Electrofringe's exhibition of online art, Electro Online 2009, back in September.

Symantec - which published a video of the app in action and an alert on Tuesday, weeks after the "threat" first surfaced - said another reason for adding detection is to guard against the possible creation of copycat packages.

"While the author of OSX-Loosemaque actually informs people on his website that the game deletes files, there’s nothing stopping someone with more malicious intentions from modifying it and passing it on to unsuspecting users who don’t have security software installed," Symantec said in a statement. "Online games are increasingly becoming a target for virus creators, and this threat shows it’s a possibility regardless of the platform."

Mac enthusiast blogs, such as Cult of the Mac, have criticised the move as treating Mac fans as just as dumb as Windows users.

Meanwhile some security researchers, such as Chris Boyd of FaceTime, took issue with the decision by Symantec et al to label the game as a threat - especially in the absence of any victims.

"This game has been kicking around for a few months now with no fuss - and then all of a sudden, Symantec are calling it a Trojan and sites abound with pitch forks and hand grenades," Boyd writes in an entertaining blog entry here. ®

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