Mac malware is on the rise

Could years of relative immunity to the viruses and malware that have plagued PC users finally come back to bite Apple? ZDNet's Ed Bott has been following an interesting story that started with the release of what's being called the first DIY malware kit targeting OS X. The kit made its way onto the Internet's black market a few weeks ago, and it reportedly allows folks to create Mac-compatible malware in seconds.

Bott warned that a rash of malware could have a devastating impact on Mac users unaccustomed to having to defend themselves from the Internet's more nefarious schemes. Then, some two weeks later, an AppleCare support rep confirmed those fears. According to the rep, the volume of AppleCare calls is currently 4-5 times higher than normal. 50% of those calls are reportedly related to a single piece of malware known as Mac Defender.

After digging through Apple's support forums, Bott discovered more than 200 separate threads related to Mac Defender alone. All but four of those threads are less than three weeks old, and a fifth of them are fresh as of last weekend.

Surprisingly, AppleCare reps have been instructed not to aid users in removing the malware. According to the support rep, Apple doesn't want to "set the expectation to customers that we will be able to remove all malware in the future." Apple has, of course, set the expectation that users don't have to worry about viruses in the first place. On its Why you'll love a Mac page, Apple notes that "A Mac isn’t susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers. That’s thanks to built-in defenses in Mac OS X that keep you safe, without any work on your part."

If script kiddies can now create OS X malware with a few mouse clicks, and Mac users have the expectation that no work is needed to secure their systems against attack, Apple could be in for a long summer of exploits. I'm trying not to be too smug about the situation, but Apple has made a point of poking fun at PC viruses. Perhaps John Hodgman can lend Justin Long his biohazard suit.

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