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New Mac fake-defenders similar to Windows scareware

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Researchers at Microsoft have discovered striking similarities between the recently emerged wave of scareware packages targeting Mac fans and the longer established rogue anti-virus applications for Windows.

MacDefender falsely warns that Mac OS X machines are infected with malware in a bid to trick prospective marks into buying a supposed security package that actually does more harm than good. Like its Windows cousin, the scam starts after users are tricked – via search engine manipulation and other ruses – into visiting an imitation scanner interface.

But the similarities between MacDefender (dubbed FakeMacdef) and Winwebsec, a strain of scareware for Windows machines, go far deeper than that.

For one thing, the URL format that FakeMacdef calls home is almost identical to that which we see in Winwebsec. In additional, the purchase pages use the same payment gateway. Finally, as a blog post by Microsoft illustrates, the interfaces on both products are almost the same.

The one main difference between MacDefender and its Windows-targeting siblings is that the Mac-targeting malware is more aggressive. MacDefender frightens users further by loading adult-oriented or pharmaceutical websites at random intervals. These sites themselves aren't infected by malware, but are loaded in order to trick Mac users into thinking they really are infected – and that MacDefender offers the best way out of the supposed mess, Microsoft said.

FakeMacdef loads most of its resources from a directory named "ru.lproj", suggesting the developer may be a Russian language speaker.

At least three Mac-targeting scareware packages have been doing the rounds this month: Mac Defender, Mac Protector and Mac Security. All three are bogus but don't expect Apple to tell you that, much less talk customers through the process of getting rid of the nuisance.

Standing orders, leaked this week, mean that Apple consumer rights people are told to neither confirm nor deny Mac infections.

The internal document, entitled About 'Mac Defender' Malware, further instructs Apple support personnel "not [to] provide support for removal of the malware". ®

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