Mac spyware infiltrates popular download sites
'Very serious security threat'
A spyware application that surreptitiously scans chat logs and hard drives of unsuspecting Mac users has found its way onto three of the more popular download sites, security researchers said Tuesday.
Dubbed OSX/OpinionSpy, the spyware is distributed through software available on sites including Softpedia, MacUpdate, and VersionTracker, according to Intego, a provider of anti-virus software for Macs. The app isn't contained in the downloads themselves, but rather gets downloaded during the installation process, Intego said. A Windows version of the program has existed since at least 2008.
Once installed, OpinionSpy scans files and folders on all attached hard drives and regularly sends data in encrypted form to several servers, according to Intego. It also injects code into the Safari, Firefox, and iChat applications and mines them for email addresses, message headers, and other data. The program remains active even if the screensaver or other application that was originally downloaded is uninstalled.
"The fact that this application collects data in this manner, and that it opens a backdoor, makes it a very serious security threat," Intego researchers wrote. "In addition, the risk of it collecting sensitive data such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers, makes this a very high-risk spyware."
Apple's OS X operating system has long been regarded as a haven from the huge base of malware that regularly targets users of Microsoft's Windows. The Windows threat has grown so large that Google has begun advising its new employees to use alternates, The Financial Times has reported.
Mac's most ardent supporters have long claimed the platform is more inherently secure than Windows, a perception Apple marketers have been happy to perpetuate. But a more plausible explanation, advanced by Charlie Miller and other white-hat hackers who regularly exploit Apple security bugs, is that the platform isn't sufficiently big enough to justify the investment of hardened crime gangs.
Intego identified the apps installing OpinionSpy as the MishInc FLV To Mp3 media converter and screensavers made by the company 7art-screensavers. More details about the spyware are here. ®
Outside of religion and politics, it's hard to imagine any subject that people get more emotionally upset about. You'd think that people's self-worth was staked out on the issue of what computer they use. It's weird, and more than a little sad.
On the topic of Apple malware: Of course it exists. It has existed for a very long time. Both the Apple fanbois and the neurotic haterz are partly right; OS X is inherently more secure, and a harder malware target, than Windows, and it's also a less appetizing target in terms of sheer numbers.
This malware, like other Mac malware, is exploiting the largest security hole in any operating system: the user's brain. As with other malware, it is ineffective and can not spread unless it is intentionally downloaded and intentionally installed with an administration password.
That is not a reflection on the security of the operating system, or lack thereof; if I can persuade a person to intentionally download a bit of software and intentionally give that bit of software administration privileges, I will pwn the box no matter what it's running. Linux, Windows, Solaris, BSD, makes no difference. The neurotic haterz who clamor "See! See! See! This is proof that OS X is exactly as insecure as Windows! See! See! See!" are just flat-out wrong.
And, yes, there are fewer OS X installs than Windows installs, so if a vulnerability appears in either OS X or Windows and would take roughly the same amount of effort to exploit on either platform, most malware writers who are in it for the money are going to go for the fatter target. This isn't rocket science, and the fanbois who say market share is totally irrelevant are as deluded as the neurotic haterz who claim there's no difference at all in the security profile of Windows and OS X.
Everyone knows that apples get worms. It's worse when you only find half a worm though.
As a Linux loving 'freetard' I'd laugh...
...but I know all too well that it could hapen to folks on Linux too. I guess the usual advice should be heeded, make sure you have security updates installed and run a decent anti-virus package (last Anti-Virus package I looked at on the Mac was McAfee Anti-Virus, or was it called Virex? Ahh can't remember, it's been such a long time).