MANILA, Philippines — Computer security firm Sophos confirmed on Tuesday suspicions that Mac computers around the world are laced with malware from cybercriminals, suggesting that one in five Mac units actually have malware installed in them.
Taking data from users of the company’s free Mac antivirus software, Sophos pointed out that majority of these malware are created specifically for Windows-enabled PCs, with only 2.7 percent of the mix targeting the Mac OS X.
But the security firm said Mac users shouldn’t be too complacent despite the low numbers. “Although Windows malware on Macs won’t cause symptoms (unless users also run Windows on their computer), it can still be spread to others,” it said.
Among the types of malware discovered on Mac systems, the recent attack of the Flashback virus, which infected more than 600,000 Apple units worldwide, dominated the list with about 75.1 percent incidence rate.
Russian security software vendor Dr. Web discovered the malware in early April, as it exploited a vulnerability in the Mac’s Java platform to spread its menace to Mac owners worldwide.
Approximately 550 infected users of the Flashback malware came from the Philippines, Dr. Web reported, although the numbers have significantly gone down since Apple issued a fix to the vulnerability.
Second on Sophos’ list are fake antivirus softwares, which, it noted, tend to target the well-off owners of Mac computers since they “are likely to have a higher level of disposable income than the typical Windows user.”
“Sadly, cybercriminals view Macs as a soft target, because their owners are less likely to be running anti-virus software,” Sophos said. “So, they might believe the potential for return is much higher.”
Other Windows-specific malware found by Sophos on Mac computers date to as far back as 2007, which means they could have easily been detected had the owners installed antivirus software on their computers.
The vulnerability of the Mac OS X operating system was put under the spotlight recently following the discovery of a widespread infection of the Flashback virus across units all over the world.
While the crisis has been averted and the number of infections significantly brought down, security firm Symantec warned that more Mac viruses are coming, considering the successful and widespread reach of the Flashback malware.
“Cybercriminals often build on the exploits of others,” Symantec explained. “Additional attempts at widespread Mac malware infections are likely to follow.”