More Mac Viruses, Similar Sources: Time to Worry?

Depending on how closely you stick to the word of the law, you may or may not be aware of the potentially dangerous trojan called “OSX.Trojan.iServices.A” unleashed on some of the Mac community last week via a pirated copy of iWork ’09. The trojan, discovered by Mac security software company Intego, allows the distributor of the malicious software to access and modify the affected system remotely, performing actions such as adding files. Such a vulnerability is potentially fatal to an operating system.

According to Intego’s numbers, more than 20,000 people have downloaded the affected file, a number which also says something about Apple’s ability (or desire?) to curb piracy of its proprietary software. Instructions on how to rid your computer of the virus in case you are among that unlucky 20,000 can be found here, but they can’t take away your shame.

This week, another round of infections has appeared, this time targeting a different, but similar group of pirates. The victims are users who downloaded a pirated copy of Adobe’s popular photo editing program, Photoshop CS4. Again, the people responsible for finding and broadcasting the existence of the trojan are Intego. This one is aptly dubbed “OSX.Trojan.iServices.B”, and actually comes from the serial generator that packages with the Photoshop installer, and not the installer itself. The CS4 trojan presents the same risks as the iWork ’09 version. Intego reports 5,000 downloads to date.

With two such high-profile virus detections coming so closely on each other’s heels, the question inevitably arises: Is Mac’s status as a highly secure option to Windows in danger? Clearly, Mac users are beginning to present a more attractive target to hackers, because the platform itself is becoming more popular. Not only that, but Mac users may be even more susceptible than others, since they traditionally haven’t had to worry much about malicious attacks.

No doubt the conspiracy theories that security companies cause and cure viruses will also crop up, especially with two such similar detections from the same source in such a short period of time. The reaction might be especially strong, considering how secure most Mac users believe their computers to be.

Really, as it stands, the only people at risk are those trying to pirate software, so it’s not really a case of “Is the OS less secure?”, so much as it is one of “Are Mac users security savvy?”. Pirated software distributed via Torrents has always been a high-risk area, but those running a Mac OS have had the luxury of being less guarded about those types of threats because the malicious code they contained was generally written to attack Windows machines.

The time may have come to star learning more smart surfing practices, but I think the general Mac-using populace can hold off on putting their computers on lock-down. Unless, that is, they plan on pirating like crazy, in which case, shields up.

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