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Mac Virus: OSX.Leap.A

February 17, 2006

You may have heard that there are zero viruses for Mac OS X compared to the many thousands for Windows. Contrary to popular opinion, this disparity is not solely due to the relative popularity of these environments; rather it also has a lot to do with engineering choices made by the two vendors. The big story lately, though, is that the first virus for Mac OS X has finally arrived.

I guess it had to happen at some point. I dare say lots of Windows guys, tired of having to defend their platform against the obvious criticisms over its lack of security, will be delighted. “See?” They’ll say. “You have viruses too!” As if one Mac virus somehow establishes some kind of equivalence against the countless critters lurking in wait for every Windows user. The press will likely blur the distinction, too, simply advising anyone on any platform to use caution and commercial virus protection. Average users will be left with the idea that it’s a wash; that things are tough all over. Heck, even during the years when OS X was completely virus-free all the press could usually muster was “largely virus-free.”

Anyway, how bad is this new and unique threat? The first thing I learned is that it’s technically a worm and not a virus. And that it doesn’t self-propagate in any way. So basically it’s a trojan horse kind of thing: you think it’s something harmless so you double-clck on it, thus releaseing it’s malevolent code into your Mac. But here’s an interesting tid-bit I found out on ZDNet’s Apple Core blog:

The worm required the user to download, decompress and execute the file then enter their admin password to cause any damage.

(My emphasis.) So basically this thing presents itself as a zip file full of screenshots. You try to look at them and…your computer is hosed? Nope. Mac OS X literally warns you: what you are doing requires an administrator password, are you sure you want to do this? I admit that there are probably people out there in computer-land for whom this would arouse insufficient suspicion. But in my book if you’re gullible enough to enter an admin password to look at a jpeg then no amount of security engineering is going to save you anyway.

Speaking of having to enter an administrator’s password to do these kinds of system-altering things, why doesn’t Microsoft do this? I wonder what percentage of their security woes would end if they immediately implemented this very simple step. Ten percent? Twenty?

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  1. Agreed.

    By the way, I think we know each other.

    Do you know Mary Pat?


  2. Yes, I do! Although I’m having one of those moments where I know I know who that is, but I can’t remember in what context I know her! Help my faltering memory and tell me!



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