Saturday, April 18, 2009

The First Reported Mac BOTNET

Let me first share news from SANS Institute, then provide a brief perspective on the situation.

Below is a quote from SANS NewsBites Volume 1, Number 30, released last night. (I added some bolding for emphasis). You can sign up for the SANS newsletters HERE.
--Trojan in Pirated Mac Software Helped Create First Mac Botnet
(April 15, 2009)

Malware embedded in pirated versions of Apple's iWork and Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Mac that were available over a peer-to-peer network in January is responsible for what appears to be the first known Mac botnet. The zombie network attempted to launch a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against an unidentified website. The malware had spread to several thousand computers before it was identified.

[Editor's Note (Honan, Schultz): Looks like the Mac platform is an increasingly fruitful target for cyber criminals. ]
Indeed it has. "Several Thousand Computers." This is incredibly sad, but also inevitable.

While all the FUD mongers have a sadism party at our expense, (and they will), keep in mind that NONE of the current Mac malware is able in penetrate any Mac unless the user (often called the 'luser') deliberately installs a Trojan horse on their computer. This happens specifically because the user has been conned by what is called Social Engineering, or in this case, the luser is using pirating software that has had the Trojan carefully placed in the installer to go along for the ride. What do you call it when a dirty deed is done to someone pulling a dirty deed? How about 'Dishonor Among Thieves'. It is more like poetic justice, parasite chewing on parasite.

Anyway, Mac Botnets have arrived. What is done with them will be of interest. Typically these days they are used for money making schemes. Go read all the news about the Windows Conficker worm scare of April 1st and beyond. Once created via infection, a botnet can pull off just about anything you can do over the Internet except in mass numbers at one time.

OK! You're a luser and maybe you did something that could have gotten you infected. Now what?

What NOT to use:

ClamAV. Worthless for Macs. I've covered this disappointment several times.

MacScan. The botnet Trojans are out of its league. It's clunky unreliable software anyway.

Symantec Norton Whatever. I consistently get reports that Norton Anti-Virus continues to be one of the single most buggy and CPU hogging applications you can buy for Macintosh. Symantec also invented the anti-Mac security FUD campaign back in 2005. Save your money and your patience. Avoid. Run away. Just my opinion.


iAntiVirus from PC Tools. It can detect and remove all current Mac malware. You don't have to pay for the application unless you are a business or are running a large network. The paid version offers technical support. Note that it only runs on Leopard. I use it and find it to be very simple and unobtrusive.

Shareware / Commercial-ware:

Sophos Anti-Virus. It is designed for companies and networks of computers.

Intego VirusBarrier. I find them to be the best-in-class for single users. I'm disappointed at their disorganization as a company. But the program is top notch. Just be prepared to shell out money year after year. Bleh. Nonetheless, I own it, use it and like it.

I used to use Virex X, now called McAfee Virus Scan. But it got clunky. Many people downright hate it. I don't know why. These days it is designed for companies and networks, not single users. I would have shoveled McAfee into the grave along side Symantec for having FUDed the Mac. But oddly, their CEO ended up stating that the single best way to escape computer malware was to "buy a Mac." So they can't be entirely stupid over there.

There is other stuff around, but it makes me yawn. You can get a listing of it all at the download sites by searching for 'virus'.


If you are in charge of a home computer shared by others, or you are an IT manager, stop the luser users from installing Trojans by giving them Mac OS X accounts that Do Not Allow Program Installation! If a user wants a program installed, let them ask you to do it for them in YOUR account. Then give them access to the program.

But of course this means that YOU, the boss of the machines, have to be careful too. Always verify that what you install has specifically been tested somewhere. I always use the download sites like VersionTracker or MacUpdate. There are many others. Be sure that either the site itself has tested that version of the program and given it an OK, or that a lot of users have tested it and OKed it. Buy commercial-ware directly from the company, and make certain they are entirely, unquestionably reputable. = reliable. Jake's Super Deluxe Fly-By-Nite ≠ reliable. You get the idea.

And just to tick off the FUD mongers:

A) There is no such thing as a 'virus' for Mac OS X.
B) There is no such thing as a 'worm' for Mac OS X.
C) There is no such thing as illicit 'spyware' for Mac OS X. All Mac spyware is sold legally for the purpose of surveillance of network machines.
D) There is no such thing as 'security by obscurity' for Mac OS X. If you know how to do math, you can prove this for yourself. Go backwards in my blog if you want to read the gravestone I wrote for this mythological absurdity form of FUD.
E) As a Mac user you must keep computer security in mind. Follow the basic rules:
  1. Make regular backups. This is the #1 Rule Of Computing.
  2. Learn how to use your router's firewall and use it.
  3. Learn how to use Mac OS X's built-in firewall and use it.
  4. Always use password protected accounts. Make very sure your password is strong, obscure, unintuitive and plain old nasty. Be sure you remember it. Don't give anyone else access to it.
I've gone into greater detail about add-on measures in previous posts. The list above covers the essential basics.

And of course, don't ever pirate software. Now it's extra dangerous. If that gets you excited, welcome to the botnet.


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