The PC/Mac debate seems to have its own entrenched camps with either side having their own arguments, their own pros and cons. Of course, Mac users have always championed the brand, particularly over a very clear edge that Apple computers have over regular PCs, the near-impervious nature of the computer systems to virus attacks and other computer malware. It’s always been a feather in the cap for Apple, but that certainly doesn’t mean Macs are fool proof as a recent malware infection seems to have infected almost half a million Macs.
According to Russian anti-virus firm, Dr. Web, nearly 600,000 Macs have been infected by the Flashback Trojan, with more than half of these computers being from the US and around 274 computers in Cupertino, California, where the Apple headquarters is located. In response, Apple has released a security update online.
Flashback Trojan was detected last September, appearing as an update to the Flash Player, which, once downloaded, gains access to a computer’s security settings, hijacking them to be used as "bots." Later versions were seen to download directly to computers without permission.
"Bots" or remote-controlled computers enable intruders to gain access to affected users’ computers and effectively control them. Once the Flashback Trojan was installed, it sent out a message with an ID to the intruder identifying the affected computer which would then be used for whatever purposes.
Chief executive of Dr. Web, Boris Sharov, explained to the BBC, "By introducing the code criminals are potentially able to control the machine. We stress the word potential as we have never seen any malicious activity since we hijacked the botnet to take it out of criminals' hands. However, we know people create viruses to get money,” adding, "The largest amounts of bots - based on the IP addresses we identified - are in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, so it appears to have targeted English-speaking people," according to a report on bbc.co.uk.
Security firms and developers have reacted to Flashback Trojan accordingly. Java developer Oracle, whose program had certain flaws that allowed Flashback Trojan room to exploit, released an update that corrected the problem back in February, but the update did not work on Macs. Apple was much slower to react, releasing its own security update only on Wednesday, while F-Secure, a security firm released its own diagnostic, which users can use to identify if their computer has a Flashback Trojan infection and details steps to remove it.
Commenting on the recent incident, Kaspersky Lab analyst, Timur Tsoriev said that it highlighted the fact that Apple is not invulnerable, saying, "People used to say that Apple computers, unlike Windows PCs, can't ever be infected - but it's a myth,” according to the same report on bbc.co.uk.