Mac and iPod peripheral maker DVForge Inc. recently sponsored a US$25,000 prize to be awarded to the first hacker who could infect two Macintosh computers owned by the company. Less than a day later the company announced the cancellation of the contest, citing legal concerns.
The impetus for creating the contest was a recent report from antivirus software maker Symantec Corp. “It is now clear that the Mac OS is increasingly becoming a target for the malicious activity that is more commonly associated with Microsoft and various Unix-based operating systems,” stated the Symantec report. The report has been met with skepticism by Mac users.
While new Windows viruses, worms and trojan horses appear all the time, Mac OS X has stayed virus-free. While several Mac OS X-native virus detection and eradication software applications exist, they’ve been relegated to cleaning e-mail worms or macro viruses — security problems stemming from flaws in Microsoft Corp.’s application and operating system software, rather than any holes in Mac OS X itself.
DVForge CEO Jack Campbell called Symantec’s report “complete nonsense” and threw down the gauntlet, offering a $25,000 cash prize to any hacker that could infect with Mac OS X viruses two DVForge-owned Macs.
“I happen to believe that Apple should be offering this prize. But, since they have not, I will. On behalf of knowledgeable Mac users everywhere, I am putting my money where my mouth is,” said Campbell.
Within hours, Campbell and DVForge Inc. announced the cancellation of the prize.
“I have been convinced that there may be legality issues stemming from such a contest, beyond those determined by our own legal counsel, prior to announcing the contest,” said Campbell. “So, despite my personal distaste for what some companies have done to take advantage of virus fears among the Mac community, and my own inclination to make a bold statement in response to those fears, I have no responsible choice but to retract the contest, effective immediately.”
DVForge Inc. plans to keep the virus contest page itself online “for the forseeable future “as an educational tool for Mac users to “better understand the risk to computer viruses, and the reasonable measures best used to continue enjoying virus-free usage of their Mac OS X computer systems.”