Invulnerable no more: Virus able to penetrate Mac OS

One of the major perks of owning a Mac computer has been the fact that it was said to be virus-proof. However, that expectation has been called into doubt.

Apple acknowledged a threat to security problems in Mac OS on May 24. Security called these problems “scareware,” which is a fake security scam software. The virus, called MacDefender, alerts users about an update until they buy the program.

After Apple announced it would update Mac OS X in order for the system to catch the MacDefender scareware, the hackers fired back, changing the name of the phony software from MacDefender to MacGuard.

What is particularly important about these new viruses is that there is no administrator password required for the download to begin.

According to Peter James, spokesman for a producer of Mac-specific security software, the installer puts itself right on the Applications folder of the infected Mac.

“A lot of the comments on blogs said, ‘Stupid Apple users, it’s their own fault because they were entering their (administrator) password,’” James said. “(The hackers) are now saying, ‘Well, we don’t even need to get a password.’”

The University will also be affected, as it uses many Mac computers. Brian Mertz, communications specialist at CITES, said this is a very big issue for CITES Security, the technology and educational services for campus that secures students’ passwords, email, accounts and more.

“If this trend continues, it will completely change how Mac users operate online,” Mertz said.

Hannah Welker, senior in LAS, became a victim of the new virus Saturday evening.

“The MacGuard software popped up, but I couldn’t install it because it said you had to register first. And then you can’t register, because you have to pay $56 first. It was really shady,” Welker said.

Welker has had her MacBook for three years. She said the virus popped up on her laptop out of nowhere.

“I closed the windows, and when I couldn’t register to install the guard, nothing would work. So I just shut down my computer. … I never thought this was possible,” she said.

Peter Piekarczyk, senior in LAS, has been an Apple user for a little over a year. He said he is disappointed with the news of the virus and encourages other students to be safe with their online activity.

“Really, all we can do is use common sense on the Internet. Don’t download from sites you’ve never heard before or ones that look or sound sketchy,” he said.

Piekarczyk said Mac users generally put a lot of faith into Apple’s security systems, but he believes it was only a matter of time until hackers figured out how to break in.

“I don’t think Apple really cares; they know that their products and their brand are still reputable. While they may acknowledge the new virus, it really has to be up to each user’s caution and knowledge regarding online safety,” he said.