AppleCare Support Rep Says There’s An Explosion Of Malware On The Mac

AppleCare Support Rep Says There’s An Explosion Of Malware On The Mac

Think recent reports that Mac malware is a very real threat are just another example of security researchers crying wolf? Think again.

An AppleCare support representative says that not only are call centers being inundated with reports about the MacDefender malware, but that Apple employees who help customers remove it from their computer can be fired.

In an interview with Ed Bott, an AppleCare support rep who obviously would prefer to remain anonymous says that call volume at his call center is four-five times greater than it used to be since the rise of MacDefender…. and although it’s easy to remove if you know how, AppleCare reps are forbidden to do so since it “sets the expectation to customers that we will be able to remove all malware in the future. That’s what antivirus is for.”

Not that that stops them, necessarily. Right now, a lot of AppleCare reps are choosing to help customers, and their higher-ups are looking the other way as they try to get the MacDefender crisis under control. But technically, any employee who helps remove malware from a Mac is subject to immediate termination.

Ironically, it appears that the belief that Macs are impervious to viruses and malware is part of what’s causing so many people to become infected. Many people are falling for MacDefender because, using a Mac, they think they have nothing to fear from malware, and have let their guard down.

So what’s Apple’s official take on Mac malware. According to the AppleCare customer service rep, the official policy is that Macs do get viruses and malware, and even though you’re using a Mac, you need antivirus and anti-malware software.

  • Gordon_Keenan

    Welcome to reality people. This has been so EXPECTED, but the blind leading the blind at times means that we face a nightmare scenario now…. Welcome to the world of popularity Apple!

  • Gordon_Keenan

    Welcome to reality people. This has been so EXPECTED, but the blind leading the blind at times means that we face a nightmare scenario now…. Welcome to the world of popularity Apple!

  • lwdesign1

     This sounds ridiculous. It is completely insane to fire an employee for helping a customer from a real threat. The story itself sounds like a troll plant to stir up negative PR about Apple. From my experience, both local Apple Store, Customer Service and Help Line calls, in each case Apple employees have gone out of their way to give me terrific service–even to the point of GIVING me a brand new 2010 17″ MacBook Pro when there were problems with getting my 2-year-old MBP repaired. Apple’s famous “Do the right thing.” mantra (read Guy Kawasaki’s book: “The Macintosh Way”) demonstrates Steve Jobs’ and Apple’s constant viewpoint of taking care of their customers and producing superior products as the right way to gain customers’ loyalty, so this article seems completely bogus.

  • Francesco

     That´s bad, I´ve been avoiding installing antivirus software in my Mac because I know it will slow it down so bad… and it´s supposed to ask before installing anything so I think I would be able to know when something I don´t want is about to invade the system.

  • Conrad MacIntyre

     I dunno, John. This one seems a little suspect to me. Especially given that Apple constantly claims that Macs don’t fall prey to PC viruses.

    That said, people need education in the difference between a Virus and a Trojan. Because people who type their ADMIN password all willy-nilly deserve to have this beast installed. If you didn’t intentionally download something… don’t install it!

    Geeze.

  • quietstorms

     It apparently does ask and the average user gives it admin access without understanding what’s going on. You’ll never have any security if you hand over the keys to the castle.

    This is why the Mac App Store is so important. Everyone should tell the average user not to install anything unless it’s from the Mac App Store or a trusted source like MS & Adobe.

  • Adam Peariso

     I used @macpaw’s CleanMyMac software to remove the #MacDefender #malware from a friends parent’s iMac… it was pretty easy and seemed to do the trick.

  • minimalist1969

    This is the first Mac malware that I’ve seen personally.  The little bugger started downloading automatically in the background a few weeks ago when I did nothing more dangerous than clicked on an thumbnail in a Google image search.  Luckily I knew to stop the download and delete the file before it even got a chance to ask me for a password.   But all my family members probably would not have know to do that (nor would they know when the Mac is or is not supposed top prompt them for their passwords.)    I could see how this could easily become a problem. 

  • Antonio Morillo

    As for what understand.. this malware/virus or whatever… infects the Mac disguised as an “antivirus”, right? So… I am more than sure that a high percentage of people who gets it are most likely early users of the Mac. They, coming from the windoze world, where having an AV is a must, seems logical that that person, in his/her naive ignorance (no insult intended here), are eager to install whatever seems to get them “protected”. Oh dear… I’ve been using Macs (5 machines of different flavors) for more than 7 years and ZERO, ZAP, NADA… Contrary to my last “PC” machine that was a VIAO, which within weeks I got it infected, even being as careful as heck. The motto here is, IMHO, DO NOT INSTALL ANTIVIRUS on any Mac! period!!

  • Mark Burr

     Sounds as STUPID as what I heard on the radio this morning when the news came on (UK).

    I railway guard was fired because he removed a shopping trolley from the train track as it would in his opinion caused a crash. He was fired because he broke health and safety rules. 

    Absolutely crazy… he possibly saved many lives by doing it….

    What’s the big deal with removing mac defender. I’ve done a few remotely for my clients who have fallen for it… Certainly not a big deal….

  • ctt1wbw

    The UK government knows better than you what is good for you. 

  • ctt1wbw

    Macs don’t, but the users do. 

  • Your name

     notsureiftroll.jpg

  • Nutz320

     “this article seems completely bogus.”
    Don’t shoot the messenger!

  • ctt1wbw

    notsureifigivearatsass.jpg 

  • Nutz320

    “The story itself sounds like a troll plant to stir up negative PR about Apple.” You are reading this on a pro-Apple blog. They’d have to be pretty objective to write anti-Apple posts on an Apple blog.

    “From my experience, both local Apple Store,
    Customer Service and Help Line calls, in each case Apple employees have
    gone out of their way to give me terrific service–even to the point of
    GIVING me a brand new 2010 17″ MacBook Pro when there were problems
    with getting my 2-year-old MBP repaired.” I have had the same excellent service. My 14-day old 13″ 2011 MBP fell off my bed when I fell asleep. It was on my knee. The monitor acted funny. It fixed after a restart. It fell down several more times (I was excited by my brand-new MBP, kept staying up late), each time the monitor would stop working. The last time, it stopped altogether. I asked my uncle to take it to the Apple Store (he lives closer). When he brought home a new one, he said they told him there was an impact, but they still gave him a brand new one. I didn’t know what he was talking about, then I remembered well later.
    I also got a brand new iPhone 3GS when my dad was using my 3G and it got stolen. His wasn’t working. He got his own new 3GS too. This was when it was brand new. I think this was with O2 or Lloyds TSB though, whatever.
    But it’s not like they don’t have a good reason. “it “sets the expectation to customers that we will be able to remove all malware in the future”

    “Right now, a lot of AppleCare
    reps are choosing to help customers, and their higher-ups are looking
    the other way as they try to get the MacDefender crisis under control.”
    Sounds like “do the right thing” to me. They’ve obviously been trained well :D.

  • Nutz320

     This is not a virus ;P. It is a trojan and cannot self-replicate. However, it still has to ask for the admin password, unlike on Windows. As one commenter said, “You’ll never have any security if you hand over the keys to the castle.”
    If it didn’t ask for password, it would be mainly harmless to the computer. The only thing being taken away here is the credit card details, the Mac is fine. So, technically the Mac itself is still secure, ;P.

  • Gordon_Keenan

    If we could take the end user away from all computers, then we would have safe computing! You just know the Virus/Trojan market is going to grow, as the AV vendors now have a fresh market to bleed dry!

  • Johnnymerr11127

     The ridiculousness of being fired for helping a customer aside, can someone please recommend anti-virus/malware for mac? I’m a brand spanking new user. Preferably free or cheap.

    Thanks.  

  • WVMikeP

     Dead giveaway is its spelling of “MAC.”

    Usually, that’s a dead giveaway of an ignorant Apple-hating troll.

  • greg

     Why would you install any anti virus on a Mac unless Apple tells you that you need to?

  • Deocliciano Okssipin Vieira

     
    Precisely!

  • prof_peabody

    I don’t think expectation has as much to do with falling for this stuff as sheer stupidity has.  The only folks I’ve helped remove it for got fooled because they are … easily fooled.  

    Mac Defender is a particularly stupid trojan in that it doesn’t even pretend to be a part of your system but poses as an app that you already have installed.  Seriously, if you are dumb enough to fall for this you deserve everything you get.  

  • Brett

    “Ironically, it appears that the belief that Macs are impervious to viruses and malware is part of what’s causing so many people to become infected”

    That is exactly backwards.   It should read “Ironically, people who were erroneously convinced that they need  to install antivirus software on Macs infected their own computers that otherwise would have remained impervious” 

    No computer can be safe from malicious software that the user deliberately installs.  If only they had trusted in the inherent strength of OS X instead of giving access to a trojan horse.

    The drumbeat of fear generated by years of articles predicting eventual doom for Mac users has softened us up for this.  Kind of like the way we in the US have accepted unconstitutional loss of freedom and privacy in the interest of “National Security” after waves of government-propagated fear-mongering.   Our “MacDefender” is the TSA, Total Information Awareness, and the Unitary Executive.

  • Al

    Sophos antivirus, Free. Good deal. Be Safe

  • Coldbluesteel

    Brett;  Right on!

  • Coldbluesteel

    Adobe is malware.

  • AdamC

    A hit whore is a hit whore and brownlee will do anything to get hits.

  • mjrmd

     The overlooked datum in this article is that it originated with ED BOTT! Ed’s career has been tied to the success of Microsoft and all of its dependencies. He has written columns and books devoted to the Gods of Redmond. Recent sales figures within the PC and Apple world have been disquieting and it is difficult to watch helplessly as major moves are made in the technology world and Microsoft has been unable to respond. Ed serves the Windows community well for a couple of decades and he depends on it for his livelihood.

    One of Apple’s (really Unix’s) great strengths is that it has been impervious to head on malware attacks. The repeated reminders of that situation drives Microsofties nuts. While I don’t think Ed is an evil person, consider that the story about Apple’s response to MacDefender is single sourced (bad reporting), but Ed was glad to expose a crack in the Apple edifice where there is none. I’m sure that the insider information from Apple support made his day. Unfortunately, it is almost certainly fabricated.

  • estragon_nyc

     Well said.

    I’ve been on the verge of giving up on CoM during the past few weeks, and this article might have been the one that pushes me over the edge.  Thanks for making it easier to say goodbye, guys.

  • imajoebob

    Your headline should read: Ed Bott Stoops To New Low as MS Troll

    The guy’s a worthless Microsoft parasite who makes a living spreading Redmond FUD.  Nothing more.  He’s not even a very good writer.

  • CharliK

     Once again, John uses a hyperbolic headline to get hits. 

    The rep didn’t say there’s an explosion of malware. He said there’s an explosion of calls. Big difference. 

    Anytime one of these reports goes out 99% of the calls are merely folks that have screwed something up themselves but are so computer ignorant that they don’t put together that deleting the mall app from the application and emptying the trash is why the dock icon isn’t opening their email. So they assume “oh my gosh I got that virus thing everyone is talking about”

    As for the claims of firing reps, that’s likely hyped also. AppleCare is, like the techs and trainers in stores, is about supporting Apple products. MacDefender is a 3rd party product and therefore they are not trained to support it. Even supporting removing it. Any more than they can answer questions about Windows, Office, Adobe titles etc.  Anyone supporting said things is not doing their job and will likely be reminded why Apple is signing their paycheck. If someone is chronically providing such unauthorized support then yes at that point a firing is likely. But not on the first offense. 

  • CharliK

    Actually a co-worker reading over my shoulder brought up a good point. What if one of these ‘helpful’ reps told someone info they got off a web page about how to delete the bad program and it turned out that said info was wrong and the user just borked their computer. Said user is going to be pissed that “Apple” brought his computer and that will be as much if not more negative press than “the jerk told me that they can’t help me and I have to go look up the answer myself”. 

  • ataribaby

    “You are reading this on a pro-Apple blog. They’d have to be pretty objective to write anti-Apple posts on an Apple blog.”

    Interesting theory, but the deisre of this site to be really cool and edgy and get lots of hits would surely trump any hesitance to be less-than-worshipful of Macs. Is the story true? A lot more corroboration is needed beyond “an unnamed company employee”.

  • ataribaby

    As is is often the case now, the comments of articles have better research and insights than the article itself.

  • gareth edwards

    All the chewing of details and hyperbole aside; I think the right thing to do for all of us Apple users who are savvy enough to help is just make sure all the people we know on Macs that aren’t are A. Made aware of the issue and B. help them sort it out.    There will be a growing virus community for the mac in the coming years so we need to get used the the threat and be better at being pro active as a community to help keep shit like this under our boots where ever possible.

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  • Tom Remson

     There’s a fast and easy program that kills all the MacDefender strains on Macupdate.com: http://www.macupdate.com/app/m… Works great for a lab environment when you have hundreds of CPU’s that are infected. It even patches the pref in Safari to not allow safe files to run.

  • Felfac

    And so ends the great age of macs being virus-proof due to OSX so so sad :(

  • guest

     Well, I guess I am one of the stupid ones, because I got the Mac Protector on my iMac.  Applecare by phone would not remove it.  But the reps at the Apple store removed it easily.  Thank God for them.  We never had anything like this on our pc’s and I was surprised to get it on a Mac – this is why we bought Mac.  Oh well, I will be more vigilant in the future.

  • Nutz320

    Check out my blog soon, I’ll have a blog post with my opinion on this MACDefender. http://habibalamin.com. Probably by tomorrow.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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