The Macalope Daily: Nuke 'em from orbit

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ZDNet’s Ed Bott is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very concerned about Mac malware. Or thinks he’s a dog with a bone. It’s kind of hard to tell which.

On Wednesday alone, Bott published two pieces and umpteen Tweets on the MacDefender Trojan. (“Trojan…” snicker.) The first post was an interview with an AppleCare support representative who says Mac malware is “getting worse” and Apple doesn’t want them to tell people how to get rid of it. What’s worse is that, as Bott points out, Microsoft has a toll-free 24/7 number for people to call for assistance if their PCs are infected.

(The Macalope’s not sure if anyone provides the same service for Linux. Seems like a lot of work for Linus Torvalds and Cory Doctorow to handle on their own. Perhaps the open-source unicorns help out.)

Of course, the problems are worse on Windows, so Microsoft needs to go the extra mile. But the Macalope hates to see Windows users getting more service than Mac users in any arena. That’s just wrong.

So here’s the story that, for some reason, Apple doesn’t want to tell you! If you do run into this Trojan (giggle) in the wild—like, say, Alaska—you can get rid of it by:

  1. Force quitting Safari
  2. Screaming
  3. Yanking the power plug out of your Mac of the wall
  4. Lighting your Mac on fire, leaving your possessions and loved ones behind and RUNNING FOR YOUR LIFE
  5. Moving to a new town and assuming a new identity

Oh, no, wait, it’s a little less drastic than that.

Bott’s second post was a terrifying “confirmation” of how this Trojan (tee-hee) is running rampant through the Mac community based on… (WAIIIIIIT FOOOOOOR IIIIIIIT)… forum posts.

Yesterday I spent several hours going through and collecting requests for help from Mac users who have been affected by this issue. I found more than 200 separate discussion threads, many of them from people who have been tricked into installing this software and are desperately trying to remove it.

Over 200?! But, but… that means maybe as many as 200 Mac users have been infected by this virus! HOW CAN THE MACPOCALYPSE BE HERE WHEN THE RAPTURE ISN’T SUPPOSED TO COME UNTIL SATURDAY?!

Bott also, presumably sarcastically, quoted Apple’s PR copy on Twitter:

“built-in defenses in Mac OS X help keep you safe from viruses & malware w/o the hassle of constant alerts and sweeps”

First of all, this is true. They do “help.” Do they make Macs magically invulnerable? No, they do not. But it doesn’t say that. Second of all, Microsoft uses almost the exact same verbiage and it’s no less or more correct on its site.

Look, the Macalope has no doubt that this is a real problem, one that, duh, has increased in frequency since the attack was released. That’s, uh, kind of obvious given the laws of cause and effect that govern our reality.

But you simply cannot judge the severity of an attack based on forum comments and one conversation with a support person with questionable math skills (tip o’ the antlers to TUAW). That’s not science. This particular Trojan (hur-hur) certainly seems to be getting real traction. But is it a catastrophe? Is it worse than previous Mac Trojans (spit take)? To know that you’d have to have comparative data.

That said, the Macalope does think Apple should be doing everything it can to help and educate users. He’s long been concerned that the company wasn’t serious enough about security and has advocated for it to get ahead of stuff like this.

John Gruber coyly suggests there’s one way Apple could effectively stop OS X Trojans (chortle) forever: prevent users from installing software that wasn’t from the Mac App Store.

Ka-boom. (In more ways than one.)

Now, people (and certain mythical beasts) might not like that for a variety of reasons, but Apple, unlike probably anyone else, could do it. As the Macalope’s said, sometimes it takes an audacious vision of the future.

Last person in the comments to say something about the trains running on time is a rotten egg!

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