A virus for the mac? Should you be concerned?
No, not really. But let me explain…
(this email is also available along with other posts of interest to Mac users on our MacCogBlog: http://maccognoscenti.blogspot.com/)
Over the last few weeks, the press has picked up on three different security concerns for OS X. As your Mac gurus, we feel like you should know about them and hear about them from us rather than someone who could make you panic about your security… so here we go:
First, we heard about a Bluetooth worm that would supposedly be able to spread from computer to computer over a wireless technology called Bluetooth. This could have been pretty bad… if Apple hadn’t already fixed it over 9 months ago. Yeah, you read that right. Apple fixed this vulnerability when it was still theoretical and if you’d been performing your “Security Updates” like the “Software Update” application tells you to, you’re fine.
Threat level: 1 out of 10
Next, we heard about a Trojan Horse called Leap.A, also known as Oompa Loompa that could spread itself to your friends in your iChat buddy list. It doesn’t do anything malicious to your computer and requires you, the user, to give it permission to do anything. It works like this: You might see a message from an iChat buddy that says something about Leopard 10.5 pics. You might be curious to see Apple’s next operating system so you click on it and agree to download it. Note: this requires YOUR PERMISSION. And not just once, but it takes you clicking on it THREE TIMES. Hint: You should not be downloading stuff unless you know what it is and whether the person intended to send it to you. My suggestion is to text chat that person to ask them what they’re sending you before you accept. If it’s a virus trying to spread itself, they won’t have any idea what you’re talking about and you can refuse the file transfer… end of story. If they say, “Dude, you’ve got to check out those pics”, then by all means…
Bottom Line: If you excercise very basic precautions about downloading files to your computer, there is no way this Trojan Horse can get into your computer. If you’re not sure, don’t accept!
Threat Level: 2 out of 10
Lastly, and most recently, we found out about an actual flaw in Safari and Mail’s handling of some types of files. Before I explain it, let me first say that Apple is working on a fix for it as I type, and there is an easy temporary fix you can do…
The flaw is there but the threat is still theoretical, by the way. It was discovered by a German security firm and picked up by lots of tech press around the world. To date, there is no exploit. This vulnerability allows someone to write a script on a web page that will download itself (only if you’re using Safari. Firefox is not vulnerable), appear to be a JPG or ZIP file, and could run malicious commands on your Mac. The problem is that Safari automatically opens certain types of files it thinks are safe… and incorrectly identifies this particular type of file. So until Apple releases the next “Security Update”, which you should always install when it asks, by the way, you can perform a quick and easy fix:
Go to Safari > Preferences > General > Uncheck “Open ‘Safe’ files after downloading”
The Mail program also has the unfortunate ability to execute programs that seem like other things like .jpg files. But YOU have to click on them. This is very easy and simple to avoid:
Don’t click on attachments unless you know where and who they came from! Period.
It’s that easy. Just use common sense. If you perform this fix on Safari and don’t open attachments you don’t know about, you’ll be fine.
Threat Level: 5 out of 10
The moral of this story is that there is nothing yet to get worried about and you don’t need to rush out and buy virus protection software. I certainly won’t. BUT, it should serve as a reminder that even though MacOS X is very secure and MUCH more secure than Windows, it’s still important to exercise basic precautions when using the internet.
Still have questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org