Home Virtualisation Fake AV for Mac catches unwary

Fake AV scams have become commonplace in the Windows world. Maybe that's why the scammers have cast their net into Mac land.


Fake AV scams work by causing web pages to throw up bogus windows asserting that malware has been detected on the computer and that they should be removed. The page then downloads a fake malware protection and cleanup tool, which the victim is asked to pay for so that the (non-existent) malware can be removed.

The MACDefender (aka MAC Defender) fake AV has apparently claimed a number of victims, despite initially presenting itself as a "Windows Security Alert". Whichever button the user clicks, a malicious download is triggered. Sometimes it is a ready to run application, sometimes it is an installer.

According to security software vendor Sophos, the fake scanner also redirects the web browser to porn sites, perhaps in an attempt to give credence to its claim that the Mac is infected.

Apart from that, there are no current indications that the software has any sinister purpose other than to trick people into paying for a program that doesn't do what it claims.

Intego, another security vendor, says MACDefender is being propagated through SEO poisoning, which causes malicious sites to appear at the top of various search results.

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Both companies' products have been updated to detect MACDefender, but Intego notes that VirusBarrier Express and VirusBarrier Plus (unlike VirusBarrier X5 and X6) do not provide real-time scanning. Realtime scanning (as provided by Sophos's free Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition) is important for dealing with this type of threat as there is otherwise a distinct risk that downloaded files will not be scanned before they are opened.

The operator of the macdefender.org website disclaims and association with the fake AV program, and macdefender.com is registered by Symantec and redirects to its PC Tools subsidiary's web site.

Apple's discussion forums contain messages from people who have been taken in by MACDefender.

 

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

 

 

 

 

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