Macs under attack by high-risk spyware

High-risk OSX/OpinionSpy, a variant of Windows malware, may be a sign of future insecurity for Apple

All those employees at Google who reportedly feel a whole lot safer running Mac OS X instead of Windows might want to sit down for this: Security company Intego today announced that a high-risk spyware application called OSX/OpinionSpy is spreading via "a number of freely distributed Mac applications and screen savers found on a variety of Web sites."

Under the guise of a "market research program," the spyware -- a variant of malware that's existed for Windows since 2008 -- is designed to collect a wealth of data on accessible local and network volumes, then send it off to its servers for likely unsavory uses. That data, according to Intego, may include user names, passwords, credit card numbers, Web browser bookmarks, and history.

[ Also on InfoWorld.com: "Your favorite malware authors: Now on Twitter!" | Learn how to secure your systems with Roger Grimes' Security Adviser blog and newsletter, both from InfoWorld.com. ]

The timing of the announcement is ironic in that just yesterday, reports emerged that Google was phasing out Windows internally, mostly in favor of Mac OS X, for security reasons. "Particularly since the China scare, a lot of people here are using Macs for security," one anonymous Google employee reported told The Financial Times.

Apple has garnered a reputation for offering more secure platforms than Microsoft, but evidence has emerged in recent months and years to suggest that Apple's primary defense against security threats has been its significantly smaller user base. Apple has been dinged for security lapses on Mac OS, Safari, iPhone OS, and iPad OS. As reported by InfoWorld Tech Watch contributor Paul Roberts, Apple will only find itself the target of more attacks as its profile and user bass continues to swell.

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