Macs have recently been the target of a widespread malware program called “Flashback.” Two antivirus companies, Doctor Web and Kaspersky Lab, independently confirmed on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, that well over 600,000 Mac computers have been infected with the latest variant of the Flashback Trojan horse. Flashback is the most widespread malware on the Mac OS X platform to date.
In response to these recent attacks, Apple posted a support document on its site addressing that the company is “developing software that will detect and remove the Flashback malware.” This software will be required to remove Flashback from systems that are already infected. Furthermore, the company notes that it “released a Java update on April 3, 2012 that fixes the Java security flaw for systems running OS X v10.7 and Mac OS X v10.6” — the most recent versions of the operating system.
Antivirus vendor F-Secure was the first to publish instructions on how to check whether a Mac OS X system is infected with the latest Flashback variant and how to manually remove it. I personally used this method to make sure my girlfriend’s Mac was not infected, and it worked like a charm. However, F-Secure’s instructions require users to type complicated commands in a Mac OS X terminal window and interpret the replies, making the instructions somewhat unsuitable for non-technical users used to using a GUI (Graphical User Interface).
Now, there is a much easier alternative for everyone to use in order to check his or her Mac.
Kaspersky Lab launched a website on Monday where people can input their systems’ unique hardware identifiers (UUIDs) to see if they are among the almost 700,000 Macs known to be currently infected. Kaspersky also released a stand-alone removal tool for the Flashback malware, which Mac owners can download and use for free.
Unfortunately, the days of being able to use Macs without antivirus software are over. As the Mac user base grows, the computers become worthwhile targets for hungry hackers. I suggest installing a reputable antivirus program such as Kaspersky Antivirus for Mac or F-Secure Antivirus for Mac after running the Kaspersky tool in order to prevent future infections. Also, make sure you check for Mac software updates on a regular basis. Instructions on how to update your Mac can be found here.
UPDATE: 4/11/2012 @ 4:45 p.m.
F-Secure has just released their own, easy to use, Flashback removal tool.
How to use the tools:
1) Download FlashbackRemoval.zip to the Mac machine you want to scan.
2) Double-click the zip package to unzip it in the current folder
3) Double-click the FlashBack Removal app to run the tool
4) Follow the instructions to check your system and clean any infections
The tools creates a log file (RemoveFlashback.log) on current user’s Desktop. If any infections are found, they are quarantined into an encrypted ZIP file (flashback_quarantine.zip) to the current user’s Home folder. The ZIP is encrypted with the password ‘infected’.
Apple still hasn’t added detection for Flashback to their own built-in Xprotect OS X antivirus tool.
More than 16% of Macs still run OS X 10.5.
If you run an older version of Mac OS X, update to a current version, disable Java in your browser, or simply uninstall Java altogether.