For years it was unavoidable. All you had to do was write something about a malware infection on a Windows machine -- an article, a blog post, a question on a support forum -- and some smug Apple fanboy would inevitably pipe up: "I have a solution: Get a Mac!"
The fanboys won't be so smug anymore, and neither will Apple Inc., now that tens of thousands of Mac machines have been infected with rogue Mac Defender "scareware."
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Windows users know this threat well: You visit a dodgy website, and before you realize it, a window pops up claiming your machine is infected. The site then offers to sell you security software to clean your system. If you fall for this ruse, you may end up paying money for a worthless program or, worse, paying money and infecting your computer with actual malware. Of course, you're also handing your credit card information over to cyber criminals. Nice.
In the case of Mac Defender (aka Mac Protector and Mac Security), infected users soon began seeing porn windows popping up everywhere (at least, that's their story and they're sticking to it). ZDNet's Ed Bott, who's been leading the charge on this story -- and taking a lot of flak from Apple fanboys along the way -- details many of the complaints he found on more than 200 discussion strings in Apple's support forums.
Though this is hardly the first piece of OS X malware spotted in the wild, it was the first one to successfully bollix a large number of users. An estimated 60,000 to 125,000 Mac owners may have gotten sucked in by Mac Defender -- so many that even Apple had to break its cocoon of Zenlike silence and actually admit it had a problem. Shocking!
Naturally, it required three weeks of denial first. Reports of the Mac Defender attacks first appeared online in late April, followed shortly thereafter by reports that Apple support personnel were instructed to pretend the threat did not exist.