Infosec: One In Five Macs Is Infected With Windows Malware

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One in thirty-six Macs harbours OS X-specific malware while one in five features at least one Windows virus or Trojan

Researchers at security firm Sophos have discovered that one in five Macs is infected with Windows malware, while one in thirty-six contains a Mac OS X-specific virus.

The study, which looked at 100,000 Macs over a seven day period, found that the most common malware to afflict the OS specifically was the Flashback Trojan, which at one point infected more than 600,000 systems around the world.

Easy target

Graham Cluley, Sophos’ senior technology consultant, notes in the Naked Security blog that despite being seven times more prevalent, Windows malware is not usual in Macs unless users also run Windows on their system. However, Macs will continue to serve as a transmission vector for viruses and Trojans so long as anti-malware software is not installed.

Cluley adds that while the spread of malware to and from Macs is no different than that for Windows computers, a lack of anti-virus implementation means that it sticks around for longer. Some samples collected by Sophos found malware dating back to 2007.

“Sadly, cybercriminals view Macs as a soft target, because their owners are less likely to be running anti-virus software,” he wrote. “Bad guys may also believe that Mac users are likely to have a higher level of disposable income than the typical Windows user. So, they might believe the potential for return is much higher.”

“What Mac users really need to do is protect their computers now or risk allowing the malware problem on Macs to become as big as the problem on PCs in the future.”

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  1. Researchers at security firm Sophos have been crying wolf for years.

    If Macs are carriers of Windows Viruses then it would seem that the problem is Windows. I feel no obligation whatsoever to support that platform in even that way.

    The idea that 1 in 36 are Mac Virus carriers seems to be patently unlikely given the paucity of REAL WORLD Mac Viruses.

  2. Misleading reporting. The macs will NOT infected with Windows malware anymore than my xbox will be infected with Amiga malware.

    Show the Sopos research. Im guessing they just fond malware files. So its like saying the wind which carries influenza is “infected”.

    Or the mail servers that transmit emails with malware are “infected”.

    No such thing is the case. “1 in 5 Macs could potentially be a malware distrubution vector”. Oh sorry, that’s a boring title, I guess that’s why you spiced it up.

  3. Understand this: the fact that any malware is even on these systems means that the user or a security vulnerability must have put it there at some point. This implies that the user downloaded it onto their system, be it under the guise of a new codec, attachment from friend, etc.

    This means that the bad practices (downloading everything under the sun and running it) and / or security issues that have been bother to Windows (and some *nix) issues also applies.

    Also, Flashblock isn’t real world? You should tell that to the 600,000+ people who were infected.

    1. The fact that malware iseven on these systems means that the user has received email at some point.

      At the beginning of the Flashblock scare, I downloaded and ran one of the free malware scanners. It reported finding 13 instances of spyware, and asked if I wanted it to quarantine it. I did, and then looked in the folder it used. There I found 13 email messages. Nothing was installed in my system, no vulnerability exploited. No problem, unless I forwarded them to someone else, but Mail doesn’t forward attachments unless you specifically tell it to. So where’s the harm?

      I agree that there are trojans for all systems, and there always will be unless systems are buttoned down as iOS and require approval of a central authority before a piece of software can be installed. I’m not quite sure whether or not that is a cure that is worse than the disease, but I suspect it is.

  4. Why is it that whenever anyone has the temerity to mention “virus” and “Mac” in the same article, he/she has to suffer being flamed by angry Mac users?
    Face up to the fact that any OS on any device can be the target of anyone dtermined enough.
    This is not a Mac v PC debate. Simply a request to acknowledge reality.
    So please do get the head out of the sand and “wear that condom”.

    (For full disclosure, I run a company that provides IT services to both Apple and Microsoft platforms. I use Windows at work and Mac at home. I have no axe to grind)

  5. Quite amazing the reaction from some Mac users. Despite the promotional blurb, Mac’s are still basically the same as every other computer, they can be hacked, viruses and malware placed on them. Mac users you need to pull your heads out of the sand, you are now the target for the bad guys – get real and protect!

  6. i personally know people who have made virus’s and trojans for macs just because mac owners are so smug about there “virus free operating system”