Mac News Review

First OS X Malware in the Wild, Will Apple Adopt Windows?, WiFi Fears at Canadian University, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.02.24

It finally happened - the first pieces of malware aimed at Mac OS X has made it into the wild.

Known as Leap-A, Oompa Loompa, and Oomp-A, this is a script that distributes itself via iChat and requires the recipient to agree to accept the file. There is no warning that this is an executable file, and once the user accepts the file, there is no request for a password. Leap-A uses Spotlight, and thus requires OS X 10.4.x, and it runs every time the infected machine is restarted. When it detects iChat being launched, it attempts to spread itself to the user's buddy list.

Inqtana-A, a proof-of-concept malware hack, distributes itself by exploiting a Bluetooth vulnerability, so the infecting Mac has to be in near proximity. Inqtana-A is considered a very low risk but could pave the way for more threatening programs.

There's also a newly discovered security hole in Safari that could compromise your Mac just by visiting a website. It looks like the days of taking security for granted may be behind us.

PowerBook, iBook, iPod, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. News about Apple's transition to Intel CPUs and other Intel developments is covered in The Macintel Report. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

First OS X Malware

News & Opinion

Tips

Desktop Mac Deals

First OS X Malware

Mac Malware Attack 'a Load of Crap'

Wired's Leander Kahney says:

"Is the sky falling in on our smug little Mac universe?

"On Tuesday, there was news of a security hole in Apple's Safari web browser that allows a system to be compromised by merely visiting a website. And last week, the first worm to pose a serious threat to Mac OS X, Leap-A or Oompa Loompa, raised its ugly little head.

"These security woes prompted a rant from one of our editors in a daily story meeting.

"Mac security-threat stories are annoying, he said, because they play off misconceptions - held with a fervor bordering on the religious - that the Mac platform is inherently more secure than Windows. Not so, he insisted. Microsoft has done some stupid things that exposed its customers to unnecessary risks compared to Mac users. But all systems are theoretically vulnerable, so it's inevitable that the Mac citadel will eventually be breached.

"I'm not going to be running any anti-virus software anytime soon, just as I haven't run it for many years."

"The Mac has had no viruses to date, he said, primarily because of its small market share.... Now that hackers are taking more notice, life will get harder for Mac owners. He suggested I tackle this 'wake up call' in this column.

"Naturally, I agreed. 'You're right,' I said. 'The Mac is sure to become a target now it is becoming more popular, and by definition, no system is 100 percent secure.'

"So, imagine his reaction when he sees this:

"I'm not going to be running any anti-virus software anytime soon, just as I haven't run it for many years....

"The smuggest of smug Mac users is right: the platform is more secure, and these new security threats are no more threatening that a paraplegic kitten."

Editor's note: Hear!, Hear!. A refreshing breath of fresh air amid the smog of media hysteria over the "OS X Malware Threat." cm

Mac OS X Malware Latches onto Bluetooth Vulnerability

The Register's John Leyden reports:

"A second strain of malware targeting Mac OS X has been discovered days after a Mac OS X Trojan appeared on the scene. The latest malware, Inqtana-A, is a proof-of-concept worm that attempts to spread using a Bluetooth vulnerability.

"The worm is not spreading in the wild and uses an internal counter that means it will expire on February 24, so it's unlikely to ever be much of a problem. Nonetheless, Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) users are still advised to make sure they're patched up in order to guard against attack from any future worm that uses the same exploit."

Link: Mac OS X Malware Latches onto Bluetooth Vulnerability

ClamXav Limitations in Fighting Malware

macattorney.com's Randy B. Singer writes:

"There have been a couple of new OS X malware threats introduced recently, and though neither have been very widespread, or particularly malicious, they could presage the introduction of a number of much more virulent threats to our Macintoshes in the near future.

"There are, of course, several really nice commercial anti-viral applications applications for the Macintosh, such as VirusBarrier and Sophos Anti-Virus.

However, many folks have been hoping for a free alternative to combat malware. Something along the lines of the now long-discontinued Disenfectant [sic].

Many Mac users have been hoping that ClamXav would fill that niche. ClamXav is a free OS X graphic front end of ClamAV, which is a free and opensource UNIX toolkit, mainly used on UNIX servers as an anti-virus application for use with Windows networks. (ClamAV is also included with Apple's Mac OS X Server software.)

The problem with relying on ClamXav, for now, is that the ClamAV database doesn't include definitions for all known Macintosh malware. (For instance, it doesn't include definitions for Opener/Renepo, or for any of the OS 8/9 viruses that can still infect Classic running in OS X.) Part of the reason for this is that folks in the industry won't release any new malware threats that they encounter to anyone other than well-known established developers of commercial anti-viral software (and probably rightly so).

To deal with this, there is a site where users who suspect that they have been infected with a virus or a Trojan that isn't already in ClamAV's database can upload a sample of any file that they consider suspicious, so that it can be inspected, and it can be used to create a new definition to be added to the ClamAV database.

http://cgi.clamav.net/sendvirus.cgi

Hopefully users will take advantage of this service and ClamXav will grow to be a complete, and free, defense against all Macintosh malware.

Randy B. Singer
Co-Author of: The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th and 6th editions)
Routine OS X Maintenance and Generic Troubleshooting

News & Opinion

Intel iBook, Mac mini Set to Launch?

The New York Daily News says:

"Apple Computer, maker of iPod music players and Macintosh computers, could be adding versions of its Mac mini and iBook laptop with Intel chips next week.

"American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu predicted the introduction of the computers and a new portable stereo for the iPod after Apple sent out an E-mail invitation yesterday for a 'fun' product announcement on Feb. 28 at its California headquarters.

"The computers may help limit lost sales as CEO Steve Jobs switches all Macs to chips from Intel. The shares have fallen 19% since a Jan. 13 peak, pushing the company's market value to $58.6 billion from more than $70 billion, on concern Mac sales may slow as customers hold off purchases until the Intel transition is complete."

Link: Apple's Intel Era Seen Set to Launch

Will Apple Adopt Windows?

PC Mag's John C. Dvorak says:

"The idea that Apple would ditch its own OS for Microsoft Windows came to me from Yakov Epstein, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, who wrote to me convinced that the process had already begun.

"I was amused, but after mulling over various coincidences, I'm convinced he may be right. This would be the most phenomenal turnabout in the history of desktop computing.

...the Apple Switch ad campaign was over, and nobody switched.

"Epstein made four observations. The first was that the Apple Switch ad campaign was over, and nobody switched. The second was that the iPod lost its FireWire connector because the PC world was the new target audience.

"Also, although the iPod was designed to get people to move to the Mac, this didn't happen. And, of course, that Apple had switched to the Intel microprocessor.

"Though these points aren't a slam-dunk for Epstein's thesis, other observations support it. The theory explains several odd occurrences, including Apple's freak-out and lawsuits over Macintosh gossip sites that ran stories about a musicians' breakout box that has yet to be shipped. Like, who cares?"

Editor's note: And pigs might fly! The Mac OS is the substance and essence of the Mac. cm
Link: Dvorak: Will Apple Adopt Windows?

Concerns Over Intel Transition Exaggerated

Forbes' Maya Roney reports:

"Piper Jaffray research analyst Gene Munster called concerns about the impact of Apple Computer's transition to Intel processors on Mac sales 'blown out of proportion.'

"'There may not be significant upside to Apple estimates over the next two quarters based on the Intel transition, but we believe numbers are achievable and we see now as the time to get positioned for the next peak,' wrote the analyst in a research note Tuesday."

Link: Concerns Over Apple's Intel Transition Seen Exaggerated

Taiwan's Top Computer Makers to Benefit from Apple's Sales Boom

The China Economic News Service reports:

"Thanks to the projected sales boom of Apple Computer Inc. for this year, Taiwan's leading contract computer manufacturers, including Hon Hai Precision Ind. Co., Quanta Computer Inc., and Asustek Computer Inc., are expected to enjoy growing orders from the U.S. computer giant.

"Insiders indicated that the total sales volume of Apple's desktop and notebook personal computers (PCs) is likely to challenge 10 million units for this year, which may help the company return to the world's "top five computer brands" club."

Link: Taiwan's Top Computer Makers to Benefit from Apple's Sales Boom

Health Concerns Limit WiFi at Canada's Lakehead University

ITBusiness.ca's Kathleen Sibley reports:

"There are many benefits to studying at Lakehead University. Ubiquitous wireless Internet access, however, isn't one of them.

"That's because president Fred Gilbert won't allow it until he's satisfied EMF (electric and magnetic fields) exposure doesn't pose a health risk, particularly to young people.

"Gilbert, who was interviewed last week on the CBC about the university's policy as stated in a town hall meeting last fall, told ITBusiness.ca he based his decision on scientific literature that indicates the potential for 'some fairly significant' health consequences....

"Gilbert cited studies done by scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, whose findings boil down to the fact that while there is no proven link between EMFs exposure and diseases such as leukemia and brain tumours, the possible risk warrants further investigation."

Editor's note: You have to wonder if they ask students not to hold cell phones near their heads.... dk
Link: Health Concerns Limit Wireless Internet at Canada's Lakehead University

Mac and Cello Create New Kind of Music

vnunet.com's William Eazel reports:

"An Apple Power Mac G5 and a cello are being combined to create a new kind of musical instrument which will be premiered in London this week.

"Although not an instrument with a new a physical shape like digital age meta-trumpets or hyper-flutes, the cello/Mac combo marks an evolutionary step in the use of computers for music composition and performance.

"The instrument comprises a cello and its player, both connected to the G5 via censors, the Apple computer and the virtual devices encoded in its software."

Link: Air on a G5 String - Mac and Cello Create New Kind of Music

Belkin CableFree USB Hub Garners Laptop Magazine's Best of CES Award

PR: Belkin has received Laptop magazine's Best of CES Award in the Accessories category for its CableFree USB Hub, the industry's first USB Hub to enable wireless connectivity between a computer and its USB peripherals. The Best of CES Awards were chosen by Laptop magazine's editors and announced on January 9, after the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

"After meeting with legions of company reps and touring countless booths, meeting rooms, and hotel suites, we found a few products that shined above the rest. There wasn't a single product that we felt was better than all of the others, but rather a few that continue to push mobility further and innovate the ways that we work and play." (Laptop magazine)

Belkin's CableFree USB Hub was one of eight other products honored with Laptop's Best of CES Award. Full reviews of these products will be available within the next few months in the print issue of the magazine.

In early spring 2006, Belkin will offer a four-port hub and dongle set that will enable immediate high-speed wireless connectivity for any USB device without requiring software. The CableFree USB Hub gives desktop computer users the freedom to place their USB devices - such as printers, scanners, hard drives, and MP3 players - anywhere in the room without running long cables. Laptop users gain the freedom to roam wirelessly while still maintaining access to their stationary USB devices.

The Belkin CableFree USB Hub continues to earn recognition since its announcement on January 3, 2006. Other accolades include the 2006 CES Popular Mechanics' Editor's Choice Award and the CNET Best of CES Award.

Link: Belkin

Tips

Chart of Available Mac OS X 10.3 Software Updates

Learn about Mac OS updates available for Mac OS X 10.3 Panther in this updated Apple Knowledge Base article:

Mac OS X 10.3 Software Updates

Update name and download link

Prerequisite software

Release date

Detailed information

Tips

Mac OS X 10.3.9 Update

Mac OS X 10.3, 10.3.1, 10.3.2, 10.3.3, 10.3.4, 10.3.5, 10.3.6, 10.3.7, 10.3.8

15 Apr 2005

About this update

2

QuickTime 7.0.4

Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later

10 Jan 2006

About this update

n/a

Java Update 1.4.2 Update 2

Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later

23 Sept 2004

About this update

1

Link: Mac OS X 10.3: Chart of Available Mac OS Software Updates

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