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Scareware makes it to the Mac

Scareware is a form of malicious software that attempts to scare users into purchasing unnecessary or useless software by running 'security checks' on a user's system, often coming up with a laundry list of 'problems' that can only be resolved by purchasing software from the vendor who is providing the security check. Interestingly, despite the number of competing Information Security companies and the various products that they produce (each with their own coverage gaps), there is almost unanimous agreement that these applications are more annoying than useful.

While there is no reason why this type of malware needs to be restricted to Windows systems, it has taken until now for such a program, Macsweeper, to gain attention on OS X. One of the obvious signs that Macsweeper is not all that it seems is that if a Windows user visits the site, they are provided with the same 'scan', including vulnerabilities in directories that only exist on the Mac. Even the company's site was initially dubious, with descriptive text about the company appearing to be nothing more than a copy of material from Symantec's site, with only the company name having been changed.

Following the public reporting of the product, the text was modified to nothing more than a contact email address.

Finnish antivirus company, F-Secure, had received a response from the company, based on their initial reporting on the software, and have solicited comments from their readers about their experiences with MacSweeper.

If any OS X user is curious about whether or not the application actually does anything useful, the functionality to do what it is offering can already be found in a base OS X installation, free of charge. In this particular respect it isn't the first application being sold that provides a pretty face for existing system functionality but sells it as something new. The application does not actually perform malicious activity, it is the process through which it solicits sales and attempts to scare users that classifies it as malicious (and unethical).

21 January 2008

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