A golden age is passing.
"I thought this was the type of stuff I wouldn't have to worry about when I switched from a PC to a MAC but I guess nothing is safe."
This comment from Apple forums user LTScodras encapsulates the way many Mac owners are feeling just now. For years they've been able to rest easy with the knowledge that malignant software simply didn't target Macs. But booming sales and increased market share for Apple has raised the profile of OS X among the Internet's worst riff-raff. Now Mac users are numerous enough to be worth targeting.
This unprecedented Mac malware outbreak has the community mobilized like never before. A cadre of civic-minded Mac owners have taken it upon themselves to spread knowledge about how to remove and avoid malware like Mac Defender, which disguises itself as protective software. Some were gentler in their efforts than others. In this thread one user criticizes another for the idea of downloading antivirus software:
"Why did you install it in the first place? You have a Mac." He went on to opine that, "All Mac anti-virus software is pretty much a scam."
Another user in the same thread had a more reasonable response,
"It's called social engineering, and YOU can fall victim to it just as easily as anyone. A/V is real on the Mac, but like on Windows it won't help against social engineering attacks. These attacks are zero hour attacks and since A/V is a blacklist, it won't know enough about your attack to help you."
Tech geeks aren't the ones put at risk by programs like Mac Defender. But thousands of users with less experience spotting online scams are. The sheer mass of people asking for help with Mac Defender every day are proof that Apple has a problem here. It's even got Mac users debating over the necessity of Anti-Virus software.
"The key is that people are poorly educated and are being suckered...Don't be stupid when surfing the net. You don't need anti-malware on your Mac, you just need to use your brain."
Another user reinforced the point, "And, for the first few days after this thing started, NO AV was of any use, since it wasn't yet cataloged in any AV definitions."
In essence, anti-virus software moves too slowly to account for all the new bugs and permutations of old bugs. And, since Mac Defender isn't a virus, but a piece of malware that requires administrator approval, the best any software can do is warn you if the program scans as funky.
Some users have noted that the MacDefenderKiller addon does a good job of removing the offending malware and protecting your system from it in the future. The download is free. But don't let downloading it lure you into a false sense of security. As user Dolphbucs put it, "there's one thing that NO OS can protect us from .... ourselves."