Security firms say Mac is likely to become a bigger hacker and malware target.
February 17, 2006

Security researchers said Friday they have found a second virus that affects Apple computers running the Mac OS X operating system, further eroding the long-held belief that Mac machines are more impervious to attacks than Microsoft’s Windows-based personal computers.

Symantec said it has identified a new worm, “Inqtana,” that spreads through a vulnerability in the operating system. The worm has not affected any users thus far and is considered to be a “proof of concept” or a prototype that can be developed to launch more malicious versions.

“While this particular worm is not fully functional, the source code could be easily modified by a future attacker to do damage,” said Vincent Weafer, senior director at Symantec Security Response. “Macintosh users should be diligent about installing patches to their operating systems as this will prevent attacks of this type.”

‘Most people think the situation is going to get worse for Macintosh users.’

Inqtana attempts to use Bluetooth connections to spread itself by searching for other Bluetooth-enabled devices that will accept requests when the computer is restarted, said security experts. If a Bluetooth connection is found, the worm attempts to send itself to those remote computers.

But security experts believe that it may not be able to spread successfully, and damage from the worm could be extremely low.

The “Inqtana” worm comes a day after the discovery of a previous virus named “Leap A” or “Oompa” that spreads through the iChat instant messaging systems on Apple’s Mac computers by forwarding itself as a file to contacts on the infected user’s buddy list (see Virus Attacks Mac OS X Users). If the malicious file is clicked on and unzipped, the virus tries to spread to other contacts on the user’s buddy list. Oompa was the first worm to target the Mac OS X operating system.

Symantec has said that it does not believe the latest worm has been developed in response to the Oompa worm found on Thursday.

“We have speculated that attackers would turn their attention to other platforms, and two back-to-back examples of malicious code targeting Macintosh OS X this week illustrate this emerging trend,” said Mr. Weafer.

Bigger Target

Other security experts have said that the discovery of the viruses show that Apple Mac computers will become a bigger target in the future. According to a web poll of more than 600 users conducted by Sophos, a London-based security firm, 79 percent of respondents believed that Apple Macs will be targeted more in the future. However, more than half of those polled said they did not believe the problem would be as great as for Windows.

“The bad news is that most people think the situation is going to get worse for Macintosh users, and more threats will be targeted against the Apple community,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

Other security experts have said that as Apple introduces its Intel-chip-based Macs, there will be greater adoption of the operating system, which could trigger malware writers into creating more threats for the Mac.

D, world destruction
Over and overture
N, do I need
Apostrophe T, need this torture?-They Might Be Giants