Apple computers infected with Flashback Trojan virus in ‘rude awakening’ for Mac users

Trojan has compromised 550,000 machines, claims Russian security firm

Attack is ‘rude awakening’ for Mac users

Cyber threat infects machines via any of four million infected web pages

By ROB WAUGH

PUBLISHED: 05:11 EST, 5 April 2012
UPDATED: 04:22 EST, 6 April 2012

A new computer trojan has infected 550,000 machines running Apple’s Mac OS X – and many could still be vulnerable.

The infected machines are now part of a ‘botnet’ of zombie machines which can be controlled by cyber criminals and ‘told’ to download new malicious software.

The attack has been described as a ‘rude awakening’ for Mac users.


Describing the attack as a ‘rude awakening’ for Mac OS X users, blogger Adrian Sanabria said, ‘Despite what Apple’s marketing department would have you believe, Macs are not invulnerable to attacks and malware targeting OS X does exist.’

The new attack was spotted by Russian anti-virus vendor Dr Web.

‘We conducted research to determine the scale of spreading of Trojan BackDoor.Flashback that infects computers running Mac OS X,’ says the Russian antivirus vendor.

‘The botnet encompasses more than 550 000 infected machines, most of which are located in the United States and Canada.

‘This once again refutes claims by some experts that there are no cyber-threats to Mac OS X.’

Many Mac users believe that the system is ‘immune’ to viruses and trojans – but in reality hackers rarely choose to write viruses that afflict Macs, simply because there are relatively few Macs compared to the huge number of machines that run Windows.

Hackers want their attacks to spread rapidly, so they usually target the OS that offers the most potential ‘victims’.

Describing the attack as a ‘rude awakening’ for Mac OS X users, blogger Adrian Sanabria said, ‘Despite what Apple’s marketing department would have you believe, Macs are not invulnerable to attacks and malware targeting OS X does exist.’

The attack works using a vulnerability in Java, and is delivered via infected web pages.

Just visiting the web pages is enough to infect a machine, downloading a file which then downloads further malicious software from elsewhere.

Dr Web claims that more than four million web pages are infected with the trojan.

‘Over 550 000 infected machines running Mac OS X have been a part of the botnet on April 4,’ says Dr Web.

‘These only comprise a segment of the botnet set up by means of the particular BackDoor.Flashback modification. Most infected computers reside in the United States (56.6%, or 303,449 infected hosts), Canada comes second (19.8%, or 106,379 infected computers), the third place is taken by the United Kingdom (12.8% or 68,577 cases of infection) and Australia with 6.1% (32,527 infected hosts) is the fourth.’

Apple computers infected with Flashback Trojan virus in 'rude awakening' for Mac users | Mail Online.

Man-made super-flu could kill half humanity

Published: 24 November, 2011, 14:27


Avian influenza virus, TEM NIBSC/Science Photo Library

A virus with the potential to kill up to half the world’s population has been made in a lab. Now academics and bioterrorism experts are arguing over whether to publish the recipe, and whether the research should have been done in the first place.

The virus is an H5N1 bird flu strain which was genetically altered to become much more contagious. It was created by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who first presented his work to the public at an influenza conference in Malta in September.

Fouchier said the strain circulates in animals, particularly birds, but rarely affects humans. In the ten or so years since bird flu first emerged in Asia, fewer than 600 cases have been reported in humans. But the H5N1 strain is particularly vicious, killing roughly half of patients diagnosed with it. What stops it from becoming a major threat to public health is that it does not readily transmit from human to human. Or at least it didn’t – until now.

Researchers in Fouchier’s team used ferrets – test animals which closely mimic the human response to influenza – and transmitted H5N1 from one to another to make it more adaptable to new hosts. After 10 generations, the virus had mutated to become airborne, which means ferrets became ill from merely being near other diseased animals.

A genetic study showed that the new, dangerous strain had only five mutations compared to the original one, and all of them were earlier seen in the natural environment – just not all at once. Fouchier’s strain is as contagious as the human seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands of people each year, but is likely to cause many more fatalities if released.

“I can’t think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one,” Paul Keim, a microbial geneticist who has worked on anthrax for many years, told Science Insider. “I don’t think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.”

Now Keim, who chairs the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), and other members of the body, have a very difficult decision to make. Fouchier wants his study to be published. So does virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who led similar research in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, and reached comparable results. And it is up to NSABB to give them the green light.

Many academics and biosecurity experts are naturally cautious about releasing information which could provide any bioterrorist with a ready recipe to hold the world to ransom. Some argue that such work should never have been done in the first place and call for international monitoring of potentially harmful research.

“It’s just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus. And it’s a second bad idea for them to publish how they did it so others can copy it,” believes Dr. Thomas Inglesby, a bioterrorism expert and director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

However the very same data, if made available to the scientific community, could potentially allow humanity to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic, which Fouchier’s study has shown to be far more probable than was previously believed. Clamping down on freedom of information in the scientific domain may in the end leave us defenseless against the flu, should it arise naturally.

NSABB plans to issue a public statement soon, says Keim, and is likely to issue additional recommendations about this type of research. “We’ll have a lot to say,” he says.

via Man-made super-flu could kill half humanity — RT.

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