by LIZ MARCHESE Staff Writer
Macs are created so viruses are not able to get into the system, but last month there was a malware attack, called Flashback, on about 600,000 Macs. The attack was one of the largest-scale malware attacks on Apple computers. Symantec, an anti-virus company, estimated the attackers made about $10,000 a day. Flashback was able to access Mac computers because there was a security hole in Java software. Oracle, an application server, patched that hole in February, but Apple was not able to patch it until early April. Once Flashback got a hold of Macs, they were able to download themselves on to people’s computers when they clicked on hijacked websites. Symantec researchers found this unusual since people usually get malware by opening attachments on an infected website. Symantec researchers were able to study the code that Flashback used, and discovered that Flashback used infected computers for click fraud, which clicks on manipulated advertisements. In other words, if a user were to Google search “toys”, it would send the user to another website, even though it would normally send people to Toys “R” Us. For every visit on this website, the attackers would earn eight cents. To protect Mac users from the malware attackers, Apple issued a security patch. Two weeks after they issued the patch, the number of infected users went from 600,000 to 140,000. Researchers from Intego, a computer security firm, discovered a new version of Flashback called Flashback.S. Flashback.S is still being spread through the Java security hole. Researchers at Symantec got a chance to study some of the Flashback.S code. They figured out that Flashback.S is meant to do the same thing as the original Flashback. They created Flashback.S to have a faster and more improved hacking process. Apple users can remove Flashback by running software updates. People can check to see if Flashback is infecting their computer by downloading a Flashback removal tool on the Apple support website. There is also another way to see if Flashback has gotten onto your Mac. Mac users must go to the ‘open safe files after downloading’ setting and this will prevent any other malware attacks. “I recommend that people use this tool because I used it and it told me that my Mac did not have Flashback, but I’m glad I checked just in case I did have it,” says freshman Nicole Moscillo. The older Mac operating system, OS X 10.5, is at a higher risk of being infected by Flashback. Nearly 25 percent of Flashback attacks were on the OS X 10.5 version of Macs. It will be difficult for older Mac users to block Flashback because Apple does not distribute OS X 10.5 security updates. This is why older Mac users are at a higher risk of being infected by Flashback. “I’m glad I recently updated my Mac since now I’ll be at a lower risk of getting any Flashback viruses. It’s also a good thing that Apple created the Flashback removal tool so now I can check to see if my computer has any viruses from Flashback,” says freshman Alyssa Clemente.