“Wake Up, Mac Users!” One In Five Macs Carry Malware

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Kaspersky is helping Apple identify vulnerabilities in Mac OS X.
Mac users are being urged to "wake up" and realize that malware is a growing problem for Mac OS X.

Think your Mac’s safe now that you’ve removed that Flashback infection? Think again. New research conducted by security specialists Sophos has revealed a “disturbingly high level” of Macs are currently carrying malware, though much of it is designed to attack Windows machines.

Of the 100,000 Macs that Sophos analyzed, one in five was found to be carrying Windows malware, while one in 36 was carrying malware designed for and dangerous to Mac OS X.

Sophos used a snapshot of 100,000 Macs running its free antivirus software and found that one in five machines was carrying one or more instances of Windows malware. While the malware cannot have any affect of Mac OS X, it can be spread, and it can affect your system if you choose to run Windows inside your Mac.

2.7% of those machines were found to be carrying Mac OS X malware. That doesn’t sound like a lot, until you realize it’s accounts for one in 36 machines, which is alarming. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, is urging Mac users to “wake up” and realize that malware is a growing problem for the Mac:

Some Mac users may be relieved that they are seven times more likely to have Windows viruses, spyware and Trojans on their Macs than Mac OS X-specific malware, but Mac malware is surprisingly commonly encountered. Mac users need a wake-up call about the growing malware problem.

The Flashback infection, which has been in the news a lot recently after it was found to be infecting more than 600,000 Macs, is at the top of the charts when it comes to Mac malware threats:

1. OSX/Flshplyr 75.1%
2. OSX/FakeAV 17.8%
3. OSX/RSPlug 5.5%
4. OSX/Jahlav 1.2%
5. Other 0.4%

So how do you pick up these infections? Well, you can get them from infected USB sticks, email attachments, files you download from the web, or from what Sophos describes as a “drive-by installation,” whereby the malware is installed onto a Mac without its user’s knowledge.

Cluley explains that Mac users are seen as a “soft target” because of the common misconception that Macs are immune to malware, and that they don’t need antivirus software:

Cybercriminals view Macs as a soft target, because their owners don’t typically run anti-virus software and are thought to have a higher level of disposable income than the typical Windows user. Mac users must protect their computers now or risk making the malware problem on Macs as big as the problem on PCs.

The top Windows malware discovered on Macs includes:

1. Mal/Bredo 12.2%
2. Mal/Phish 7.4%
3. Mal/FakeAV 3.8%
4. Troj/ObfJS 3.6%
5. Mal/ASFDldr 3.3%
6. Troj/Invo 3.0%
7. Troj/Wimad 2.6%
8. Mal/Iframe 1.5%
9. Mal/JavaGen 1.4%
10. Other 61.2%

Some of this malware dates back to 2007, and Sophos insists that much of it wouldn’t be around if users had installed an antivirus product sooner. “The simple fact is that you can scan your Mac for infection from your armchair,” Cluley said. “The test is painless and free; you just download an anti-virus product and allow it to check your computer and protect it against infections in the future.”

I know what I’ll be doing this evening.

[via The Next Web]