Worms nibble at Apple computers

2019-03-02 06:08:00

By Will Knight Some of the first few malicious programs aimed at Apple’s computers pose little threat, according to experts, but should remind users that no platform is immune from attack. Anti-virus experts discovered a program targeting Apple’s OS X operating system on 14 February. The malicious software, or malware, is named “Leap-A” or “Ooompa Loompa” and spreads via iChat instant-messages. It can provide an outsider with remote control over a system. Some claimed this to be the first malware aimed at OS X, although an earlier OS X worm was actually discovered in October 2004. On 17 February, a few days after the discovery of Leap-A, a second pest aimed at OS X was found. The program, dubbed “Ingtana-A” or “Inqtana-A”, copies itself to other computers via the Bluetooth wireless protocol, but does not provide access to a system or cause any damage. Both Leap-A and Ingtana-A have made headlines and stirred discussion among computer users, but experts say they pose a minimal threat. The Leap-A malware must be decompressed and executed (intentionally run) in order to infect a machine, meaning careful users are unlikely to be affected. “As a piece of malware, it wasn’t much to speak of. It even had a bug in it,” said Ray Wagner, computer security analyst at US company Gartner. “The thing that interested everyone was that this was the first malicious piece of software mounted against OS X in a while.” Ingtana-A is considered even less menacing as it requires computers to be in close range of one another and will actually deactivate itself after 26 February. “These new malware incidents prove that no operating system is 100% secure,” says Mikael Albrecht, of Finnish computer security company F-Secure. Fortunately for Apple users, Albrecht notes that much malware is now designed to make money, for example by acting as a portal for spam. This means that malware authors are more interested in targeting PCs and the Windows operating system because it offers a better chance of infecting more machines. But Albrecht warns that OS X users should not become complacent. “The fact that some people think it is completely secure is a security issue in itself,” he told New Scientist. On 21 February, a more serious potential threat to OS X was discovered by Michael Lehn, from the University of Ulm in Germany. Lehn released details of a bug in the Safari web browser that comes with OS X that could be used to execute code on a computer without authorisation, giving the potential for a much more serious virus. As yet, a software patch has not been issued, however Danish computer security company Secunia has set up this page that lets users test whether their system is vulnerable and provides advice on mitigating the risk. More on these topics: