For many Mac lovers around the world, the unthinkable has happened. The Flashback malware, manifesting itself primarily as a fake Flash Player update, has infected over 600,000 Mac OS X users worldwide since its onset in September 2011, making it the most pandemic of Mac viruses thus far.
This incident seems particularly catastrophic because Apple has given off the vibe in their advertisements that Mac users simply need not worry about viruses. Are Macs’ security features actually impenetrable?
There are significantly fewer known viruses for Macs than for PCs: 200 compared to PC’s 140,000 last year. But there are also fewer Macs than PCs in existence, suggesting that Apple may be garnering much of their defense from a ‘security by minority’ strategy. Less users ultimately means less chance for the spread of malware and less profit for malware creators. An increase in Mac ownership could lead to a decrease in security.
As of January, Macs still only made up about 11.6 percent of the personal computer market share, but they are inching dangerously close to the predicted 16 percent market share ownership that would motivate profit-driven virus creators to capitalize on Mac OS X malware creation as more than just a niche market. In the meantime, how should Mac users remove the Flashback malware and protect their Macs from further security breaches?
Few will criticize Apple’s ability to churn out updates. The update issued on April 3 mends the security flaw in Java that allowed Flashback to latch on, but it is only for Mac OS X v 10.6 and higher. Companies like F-secure have released free automatic removal tools, as well as manual removal instructions, the only sure fire method according to UT’s IT department, that should also be accompanied by an anti-virus software for future protection.
This unforeseen incident probably isn’t reason enough alone to abandon hope in Apple, especially for loyal fans, but it does warrant extra precaution when using your Mac.