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IT Services News No. 156 Mar - Apr 2012

From the Helpdesk ... Malware Hits Apple Mac Computers

    1. Introduction
    2. Security Recommendations

1. Introduction

In April 2012, the information security company Sophos released a report titled "1 in 5 Macs has malware on it. Does yours?". The report reveals that among 100,000 Apple Mac computers that had recently downloaded Sophos' free Mac anti-virus software, 20% were carrying one or more instance of Windows malware and one in 36 Macs was infected by Mac OS X malware.

In most cases, Mac computers carrying Windows malware won’t cause symptoms as these malware will not run on Mac OS X.  The malware can still be spread if the users are running Windows OS on their Mac computers or transfer files between computers.

Sophos’ analysis also reveals that approximately one in 36 (2.7 percent) of Mac computers were found to be infected by true Mac OS X malware. The top Mac OS X malware found on the 100,000 Mac computers include Flshplyr (Flashback botnet), FakeAV (MacDefender and its variants) and RSPlug (DNSChanger botnet).

The Mac OS X malware could steal sensitive personal information, spread malware onto Mac computers via USB drives, email attachments, web site download, or even install unsafe software where users do not realise their Mac computers security has been compromised.

2. Security Recommendations

The following recommendations apply to all users of computers.  The protection against Windows malware applies to Windows platforms and the protection against both Mac OS X and Windows malware applies to Mac computers.

  • Install an anti-virus software. 
    • Students can download ONE copy of the Sophos anti-virus (SAV) software from HKU Portal (under the "MyPage" tab => "Campus Information Services" link => under "Central IT Services" => "Download Sophos Anti-Virus") and install it on a computer for work related to University employment or studies. An online guide on installation and use of SAV is also vailable at the download site.

  • Perform security patch updates for your Windows and MAC OS X and software applications whenever updates are available.

  • DO NOT download and open any email attachments that looks suspicious and they may contain malware.

  • Be careful when installing any kind of software applications. Only install software applications from trusted sources.

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