The recent outbreak of the Mac Defender malware has rehashed some familiar discussions on security for the OS X platform.
Anyone following the technology space has no doubt heard of the phoney security package, along with several other variants, which masquerades as anti-virus software.
The tactic is common. The software is installed by social engineering or through a browser exploit, and the user is told that their system is 'infected' with a virus which can be removed on payment of a fee.
Growing complaints from Apple customers prompted the company to issue a software update which purges the Mac Defender package and its variants from OS X systems.
But what should Apple, its developer partners and the OS X user community do to secure the platform and respond to future malware outbreaks?
It may be time for Apple to begin distributing its own tool to detect and respond to such threats. Perhaps it is also time Apple got into the anti-malware business.
Apple, unlike Microsoft, does not have a host of anti-trust issues which limit what the company can bundle with its operating system.
A malware detection and removal package could be offered as part of the next OS X release, allowing Apple to get a fix out in a matter of hours when future outbreaks occur.
Until then, malware outbreaks will continue. What started a few years ago as something of a curiosity has grown into an occasional Mac malware sighting, followed by a steady stream of new samples and new tactics.
Some experts have suggested that attacks such as Mac Defender are somehow less of a threat because they spread by social engineering.
'Real' attacks, on the other hand, which take advantage of application vulnerabilities to automatically install and execute, are a greater threat than those that trick the user into installing the malicious payload themselves.
While it is true that so-called zero-day attacks are very dangerous, social engineering attacks can be just as damaging.
Vulnerabilities can be patched, but consumers can always be tricked into loading software, especially with the promise of games, free applications or sexual content.
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