It’s Time for Mac Users to Start Worrying About Malware

March 7, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Apple Macbook
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Here's what you need to know.

PC users are used to dealing with malicious software on their computers. They have antivirus programs, frequently scan their machines for malware, and pay extra attention to anything they download off the Internet.

Although Mac users may be just as aware of the dangerous pieces of code floating around, they haven’t had to be overly concerned about their machines until now. Reuters reports that the first Apple-targeted Ransomware attack occurred over the weekend. Ransomware is a particular type of malware that encrypts — locks up — the data on your computer until you pay out a ransom, often in Bitcoins.

Palo Alto Networks Inc. director Ryan Olson told Reuters that the “KeRanger" malware’s appearance on Friday is the first time a functioning ransomware has attacked Mac computers.

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"This is the first one in the wild that is definitely functional, encrypts your files and seeks a ransom," Olson said in a telephone interview.

A program called Transmission, used in peer-to-peer file sharing, was the entry point targeted by the hackers. Infected downloads began over the weekend, but KeRanger waits for three days before starting encryption, so you may be infected and not even know it. A ransom of one bitcoin (about $400 USD) is the price to get your files back.

According to a Palo Alto blog, Apple has now revoked the development certificate that KeRanger used to get through and Transmission Project has taken the malicious installers off its website. The Transmission website has also been updated to include information on how to check whether your computer is infected and a new version of the program that will ensure the infected ransomware is correctly removed from your computer

Why had Mac users been spared so far? It’s not that Macintosh computers have more security features, but rather that writing ransomware for PCs has been so profitable that it hasn’t been worth the trouble of doing it for Macs, says PC world. However, researchers have written the code to prove it can be done and to help make Apple programmers more aware of security holes.

If you think that there is any chance that your computer might be infected, don’t wait until your files start getting encrypted. Visit the Transmission website now and make sure your computer is safe.

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