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The Mac, viruses, trojans, and an ounce of prevention

There are have been many articles about the virus "Flashback" and its impact on the Mac, including one written by this me on Is it time for anti-virus on your Mac?. The numbers reported may seem large. However, statistics can be misleading and an ounce of prevention may be a better solution than an anti-virus software package at this point.

According to an article on, Roel Schouwenberg, Senior Research for Kaspersky Lab, an anti-virus software company, shares “Percentage-wise, Flashback is roughly the equivalent of Conficker.” There are a couple of challenges with that comparison: The first challenge is while the 600,000 possibly infected Macs represent around 12% of Macs purchased in 2011 Q4, it only represents 1% of all Macs out there. In fact, if you do not have an Intel Mac, this virus doesn’t seem to impact you. Also, speaking of statistics, around 40% of Mac users have upgraded to Lion, which does not install Java until you need it. While many websites need JavaScript to run, it is different than Java which is used in this exploit. The second challenge with this statement is that 1% of Mac is much smaller than 1% of Windows-based machines. Statistics are interesting, but can be used to show a less direct relationship or comparison.

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Is it time for anti-virus on your Mac?

Recent reports by Dr. Web, a Russian anti-virus vendor, indicates that a Trojan may have infected over 550,000 Macs. Most of these machines seem to reside in the US and Canada. This Trojan is JavaScript related and requires the user to visit an infected website, enter in their admin password, and install the Trojan. Many tech news organizations have reported this over the last couple of days with some caution and some fear.

Apple seems to have patched this vulnerability within the last day or so with a Java update for Lion and Snow Leopard. The “however” here is the flaw seems to have been known for some time and a Windows patch was delivered back in February. Apple did take more time to update their Java install. It is out and available now, so patch your system soon. If you have not run a System Update, you can do so by:

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