Monday, April 09, 2012

Yes, Mac Malware Exists

Some of my Windows-using friends (no, I won't publicly shame them by naming them -- they'll eventually catch up to the 21st century) expressed surprise at the foofooraw about the "Flashback" malware which now apparently afflicts around 1 in 50 Macintosh computers. After all, one of the Mac's informal selling points is that viruses and such aren't something you have to worry about.

I wasn't surprised (nor, btw, was I infected). I've been waiting for years for The Big Mac Trojan to show up.

Macs aren't magically "immune" to viruses -- nor are Linux boxes. While I personally think that both MacOS and Linux are better operating systems than Windows, all OSes have vulnerabilities.

Most malware is written to attack Windows machines for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks ("that's where the money is") and that the 9/11 hijackers hit New York City and Washington, DC instead of Odin, Missouri and Green Forest, Arkansas (a lot more people there to kill or maim, a lot more attention to be had, etc.).

There are basically two reasons to write malware:

1) To make money (by stealing credit card numbers, or use enslaved machines to send out loads of spam and hope it makes people order Viagra, or whatever); or

2) To raise hell, cause accidents, and get noticed.

Either way, attacking Windows makes more sense. There are just a lot more Windows users than there are Mac and Linux users. Until a purple cow comes along and decides to be different, anyway.

And -- I don't mean this as an insult -- a higher percentage of Windows users are probably less intimately involved with their machines, and therefore less likely to notice reports alerting them that they have security vulnerabilities and should download updates and so forth. That is, a higher percentage of Windows machines than Linux machines or Macs are probably thought of as household appliances rather than as potential burglary vectors.

Nothing wrong with that, except that you generally don't have to worry that your toaster will charge up $200 in Scandinavian porn for some guy in Romania to your PayPal account.

But obviously there's some of that attitude with Macs as well, and Flashback's author took advantage of that. There will be more.

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