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Computer Users Expect More Mac Attacks

A survey finds 93% expect an increase in malware threats to the Macintosh platform.

Computer users are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the Mac's ability to sustain its mostly malware-free existence.

Sophos, a computer security company, surveyed 355 computer users, asking them whether they believed Apple's Macintosh computers will be targeted more frequently by malware in the future. It found that 93% expected an increase in malware threats, up from 79% two years ago.

The way Sophos put its question to respondents may have something to do with the answers it received. The company's question arguably could be described as a form of push-polling: "The first financially motivated malware for Macintoshes has been discovered. Do you think in the future Macs will be targeted more often?"

After stating that new malware for the Mac has been identified and then soliciting a prediction about the future, it's a surprise that anyone would fail to see Armageddon ahead.

Last November, Sophos reported what it claims is "the first financially motivated malware for Macintoshes." The Trojan program OSX/RSPlug-A "poses as a codec to help users view pornographic videos, but in fact changes DNS server entries to direct surfers unwittingly to other Web sites." Cyber criminals typically use Web site redirection to send people to malicious sites designed for phishing or malware distribution.

Despite the dubious polling technique, Sophos and the survey respondents can rest assured that their expectations will be fulfilled. With the exception of malware that's custom-crafted for a specific target, most financially motivated cyber criminals target platforms and applications by popularity.

With Apple's sales surging and Mac OS X multiplying, thanks to the rapid adoption of the iPhone, with iPods and iTunes being adopted both by Mac and Windows users, it would be foolish to expect malware authors to turn a blind eye toward opportunities to infiltrate Apple's software and hardware.

Apple patches system vulnerabilities periodically, just like Microsoft and everyone else in the industry. It's only a matter of time before malware authors make a more concerted effort to take advantage of those holes. Moreover, the shift toward Web-based applications makes the underlying operating system and hardware less relevant in many scenarios. When someone gets tricked into entering personal information at a phishing site, the vulnerability is user gullibility more than anything else.

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