Week in Geek: The Macs Have Viruses Too Edition

Note: This article is part of our archive and is likely out of date.
(Links may not work, downloads have not been recently tested for safety)

By Lowell Heddings on April 25th, 2009

We’ve all seen the Mac vs PC ads mocking us, claiming that Macs never get viruses. If that were true, there wouldn’t be a botnet of infected Macs completely controlled by unknown hackers.

Sick Mac Computer

Botnet? Infected Macs? What?

Security researchers at Symantec recently discovered a group of thousands of Mac OS X computers infected with a trojan horse application embedded in pirated copies of iWork 09.

The infected users had installed the software without scanning it for viruses, no doubt in part because of Apple’s commercials implying that Mac users don’t need to worry about security.

Once the hacker managed to get his malware installed on these zombie Mac computers, the entire group was fully under his control – and he began to use them to attack web sites, but they could be used for other, more nefarious purposes: like sending spam!

Wait, a Mac can get a virus?

That’s exactly right: no operating system is immune to viruses, worms, trojans, or even spyware. To be fair, the vast majority of all malware targets Windows users, especially unpatched and horribly insecure Windows XP machines – but that doesn’t mean other platforms can’t or won’t get viruses, especially as Apple gains market share and attracts the notice of the hackers.

My problem with this whole story is that Mac users should be educated – you simply cannot download software from BitTorrent and start using it without doing a virus scan first, and Apple should stop mocking security in their commercials.

But this Hack Required User Intervention, it’s Not Apple’s Fault!

That’s quite true! This problem was caused by users downloading software illegally, entering their admin password, and installing it by choice. Hardly Apple’s fault.

But… this is part of a broader issue: Lying about security features will not keep the hackers away! Apple needs to take security more seriously, or else they will run into the same problem that Microsoft did with Windows XP: massive virus/worm infections across the board, and millions of zombie computers sending us spam.

Case in point: last month, a couple of hackers were able to crack a fully patched MacBook in a few seconds, requiring nothing more than clicking on a link using the built-in Safari web browser. If Mac users are conditioned into thinking that they don’t need to worry about security, these types of attacks could escalate in the future.

Perhaps it’s time to recommend security software to Mac users?

Think Botnet – the Wallpaper!

In honor of the first Mac-powered botnet, I’ve created some wallpaper images for your enjoyment =)

 Think Botnet Think Botnet - Black

Just click on the thumbnails to download the full wallpaper, designed for 1680×1050 resolution. Yes, it’s silly.

Interesting Random Stuff We Found This Week

Here’s a few things that we found this week while wasting our time browsing the web:

The How-To Geek on Lifehacker

In my other home at Lifehacker, I write lots of short articles linking to various interesting software packages. Here’s a few of my favorites from this week.

Latest Reviews at How-To Geek

Our software reviews section continues to grow, thanks to the excellent work by associate editor Mysticgeek. Here are the newest reviews this week:

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

The Good: Fast and effective at detecting and removing malicious software

The Bad: License required for real-time protection and scheduled scans

Read the Full Review…

Replay Music

The Good: Records high quality audio MP3 or WAV files from any internet source. Very easy to use

The Bad: Recording to other types of music formats would be welcome

Read the Full Review…

Vipre Anti-virus + Anti-spyware

The Good: Runs very light, taking up few resources making it a perfect choice for netbooks and older systems. Liberal licensing policy. Compatible with Windows 7

Read the Full Review…

You can always check out the latest reviews by clicking on the Reviews link on the HTG site menu, or at the bottom of the daily articles.

The Daily Articles

Just in case you missed them, here’s the list of daily articles from the week.

We finally hit 10,000 Email Subscribers!

At some point in the last few hours, the 10,000th daily email subscriber confirmed their subscription. Sweet!

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/25/09
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