If you still harbor the delusion that Macs are relatively impervious to malware, yet another Mac-targeted attack
should disabuse you of that notion. A security
firm has located another Trojan that is designed for OS X, and, like another recent Trojan, it uses vulnerabilities in Java.
The newly discovered Trojan, called Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a, allows the attacker to connect the infected machine to a Web site that can commandeer the Mac's operations, enabling remote execution of commands.
Kaspersky Lab's Costin Raiu, who reported the new Trojan on Saturday, noted on the company's SecureList blog that its "Java exploits appear to be pretty standard," but added that they have "been obfuscated using ZelixKlassMater" in order to avoid detection from anti-malware products.
Raiu said that it is currently unclear how many machines have been infected by this Trojan, but he noted that the backdoor functionality and other factors indicate that "it is most likely used in targeted attacks." He noted several reports that suggest the attack was "launched through e-mails containing a URL pointing to two Web sites hosting the exploit, located in U.S. and Germany."
Raiu also said that this Trojan's backdoor "has been compiled with debug information," which makes analysis easy and could indicate it is still under development.
Raiu has recommended 10 tips for boosting Mac security. These include creating a non-administrator account for everyday activities, using a sandboxed-Web browser such as Chrome, uninstalling the standalone Flash Player, uninstalling Java or at least disabling it in browsers, and using Office 2011 instead of 2008.
Flashback Malware Removal Tool
He also recommends using Mac's built-in Keychain password manager, enabling full disk encryption or FileVault, upgrading to Adobe Reader 10 or later, and installing a good security solution. For the latter, as might be expected, Raiu recommends Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Mac.
On a related front, Apple on Friday released the Flashback malware removal tool, in addition to the Java update it issued last week.
Earlier this month, Russian security firm Dr. Web said that more than 500,000 Macs had been infected by a Flashback Trojan, meaning that about 1 percent of the total installed base of Apple computers had been hit.
Some observers think the Flashback Trojan was created by the developers of last year's MacDefender attack. The Flashback Trojan is a drive-by download, which uses a Java vulnerability in Java-enabled browsers to install itself without user intervention.
The Flashback Trojan and MacDefender could represent a turning point in Mac's reputation for security. While there had previously been demonstrations of Mac-targeted proof-of-concept viruses, as well as Office macro viruses and several other minor threats, Macs were generally ignored as a target in favor of Windows, a much bigger target.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, noted that Microsoft has an "ongoing relationship" with Java owner Oracle, and so can pinpoint a Java-related problem and supply a fix relatively quickly.
But Apple, King said, "apparently doesn't have that kind of relationship with Oracle," and Apple's response "took longer" than was needed. In the future, with the prospects of more Mac-targeted attacks looming, King said the computer maker needs to respond "more transparently" and more quickly if it doesn't want to lose customers, particularly in enterprises.