‘Zombie Macs’ launching botnet attacks

Symantec researchers have claimed that they have found the first real attempt to create a Mac botnet.

Mario Ballano Barcena and Alfredo Pesoli said that the malware variants OSX.IService and OSX.Iservice.B were both designed to obtain a user's password and take control of an infected Mac.

According to an example in this blog post, a Zombie Mac' could run a PHP script as root, launching a Denial of Service (DoS) attack on a website.

Malware has infected systems due to trojans infecting pirated copies of iWork 09 and Adobe Photoshop CS4 shared on p2p torrent networks, which thousands of users downloaded.

Orla Cox, security operations manager at Symantec, confirmed to IT PRO that it was the first botnet on the Mac platform.

She explained that the botnet was still small, so it was difficult to say what this particular threat was actually capable of.

She said: "What we're seeing though, is that the Mac market share is definitely going up. It's till far behind Windows but certainly growing over time."

Cox added that she believed Mac users may also be more complacent about security compared with Windows users, which may make them more susceptible.

"It's not so much technical limitations that have meant we haven't seen as many threats on the Mac," Cox said.

"It's more so that the install base isn't as big and the malware authors aren't going to get as much bang for their buck."

Mac-targeted malware has increased in volume in recent years and, as market share increases so too will the threat level, according to Cox.

David Marcus, director of security research and communications for rival vendor McAfee, said that the functionality of the bot was not new but agreed that attacking the Mac platform was new territory.

"It is spread through pirated software a this point (a huge no-no anyway) so hopefully distribution will be light and not result in large numbers," he wrote on the McAfee AvertLabs blog.

"It definitely does highlight the need for security software regardless of platform!"

Apple had not responded to our request for comment at the time of publication.