Last September, Oracle announced that their Java plug-in had a security flaw that needed to be patched. If left un-patched, users could inadvertently install malware such as the Flashback trojan and the-just discovered trojan, Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a. Both of these seem to connect users to a botnet (a network of infected computers that can receive commands from a remote location, without the permission or knowledge of the computer owner).
The number of computers infected is quite large, well over 500,000 have been infected. Russian security firm Kapersky even reported 274 computers in Cupertino, Calif., the home of Apple, had checked into the botnet servers after infection with the malware.
Apple released an update for their two latest OS versions, OS X 10.6 aka Snow Leopard and OS X Lion to address the vulnerability. It doesn’t have a fix for earlier versions except for the advice to uninstall Java. A MacWorld article gives advice including other workarounds for earlier OS versions such as using Google Chrome which has an updated version of Java embedded in its browser. General Mac security tips are given in this blog post from Kapersky labs.
At this point, many Mac users may complain that this is why they went with Mac. They don’t want to worry about which version of an OS they are running or if their software has been patched. For years, Mac’s operating environment was seen as safe from viruses and malware. Unfortunately, these latest threats show that Mac users have to follow many of the same routines that those running Windows have long had to deal with.
My Advice: Keep Your Computer Updated
Don’t ignore the notices that software updates are needed and your computer needs to reboot. Update your other programs as well, pay attention to Adobe Reader, Microsoft Office and other non-Apple products and install any suggested updates.
The comments sections of articles about these new threats often include comments suggesting that these threats are overhyped by security firms to expand their sales by selling unneeded anti-virus software to Mac users. It is a good conspiracy theory, but even Mac suggests you use an anti-virus program to screen for malware if you find suspicious programs or detect unusual activity on your computer.
There are many versions of anti-virus programs available for Mac. MacWorld magazine is a great place to find reviews from a Mac point-of-view.
Watch for Performance Problems
If your computer is running slowly, running hot to the touch, your Internet connection speed drops or errors start to pop up, you may be facing hardware failure or a security problem. Just like with your car, strange noises and flashing lights shouldn’t be ignored. Either research the problem and look for fixes or take it to an expert. Or perhaps take it to a “genius.”