Macintosh users are finding out the hard way what Microsoft Windows users have known for a long time: Criminals want to sell them fake anti-virus software by scaring them with lies that their computer is infected.
This week the scareware targeting Mac OS X users is known as "Mac Defender," with variants called "Mac Protector" and "Mac Security." Here are some tips for dealing with it.
1) Apple's advice is to first try and navigate away from the dangerous fake antivirus page by "force-quitting" this dangerous application. Apple support describes the process as "chose Force Quit from the Apple menu (or press Command---Option-Esc), then choose the unresponsive application in the Force Quit window, and click force Quit."
2) In some scenarios, the Apple browser may automatically download and launch the installer for this malicious software, Apple points out. If this happens, Apple says "cancel the installation process; do not enter your administrator password." Deleting the installer immediately involves going into the Downloads folder "or your preferred download location," according to Apple, dragging the installer to the Trash and emptying the Trash.
3) One real anti-virus vendor, Intego, says if users do unexpectedly see an installation screen from Mac Defender, they should not go further and install the application. "This installation screen is the normal Mac OS X installer screen, but this should only display when you expect to install software." Intego says to uncheck the "Open 'Safe' files after downloading" option in Safari, or similar options in other browsers. If a browser asks you if you want to run an installer when you did not expect to download an installer, always click the No or Cancel button.
4) Apple says it plans to have a signature-detection tool for Mac Defender in the next few days. You may not want to wait. Instead, you may want to turn to real anti-virus vendors for ongoing protection against Mac-based malware, even though the Apple Macintosh has been far less a target for malware than Windows.
5) If you need to clean the Mac Defender off your computer, Apple describes how to do this in its statement from May 24, noting that the malware also installs a login item in system preferences. Apple says it's not necessary to remove the login item but does explain how to do it.
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