Remember the days when Mac owners chuckled as Windows users swatted swarm after swarm of malware, confident in the old saw about ‘security through obscurity’? Well, one side-effect of Apple’s growing popularity is the Mac is becoming a more visible target for malicious hackers — and they’re already building Trojans aimed at your machine.
“You get a few points up, and like we are seeing now, you will start seeing malware,” Adam O’Donnell says. Before becoming part of SourceFire, in 2008 O’Donnel predicted Macs would see more attacks when Apple’s marketshare hit 16 percent. Recently, security researchers discovered a kit to build Trojans for the Mac OS X operating system.
The report is “quite disturbing news since Mac OS previously to some degree had been spared from the increasing amount of malware which had haunted Windows-based systems for years,” said Peter Krause, a partner in the security firm CSIS which discovered the Weyland-Yutani Bot kit being sold. (The name comes from the corporation in the movie ‘Alien.’)
The kit signals malware attacks against Macs now makes financial sense to hackers. “It just becomes economically viable to do it, so you start seeing these attacks becoming more common,” O’Donnell said. By building a kit, malware attacks – such as those by criminals seeking your private information – can be quickly scaled to huge numbers of victims.
Ironically, it is the inability of PC security software to catch all attacks that have saved the Mac from earlier assault. O’Donnel’s paper to the IEEE predicted if PC security caught 80 percent of malware, it would require Apple to gain 16 percent of the market. However, if PC security caught 90 percent of attacks, the Cupertino, Calif. company needed just 6 percent marketshare. M
The fear is that with the growing use of mobile devices, malicious hackers may soon move from the computer to the handset. The jump may not happen soon due to handsets being such a different platform than PCs or Macs.