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Monday, April 16, 2012

Apple Releases Update for Flashback Virus

Story first appeared in The Huffington Post

Apple has followed through with its promise to develop software that will detect and remove the malicious Mac Flashback trojan, which infected more than 600,000 Mac laptops worldwide.

On April 12, the company released yet another Java update that removes the most common variants of the Flashback malware. While the update is meant only for OS X Lion and Mac OS X v10.6, Apple suggested previously that users with Macs running Mac OS X v10.5 or earlier disable Java in order to better protect their devices from the Flashback trojan.

When the company on April 10 announced it would be developing a malware removal tool, Apple also mentioned it is currently working with Internet service providers (ISPs) across the world to shut down the network of computer servers presumably hosted by the malware authors and currently supporting the Flashback trojan.

This is Apple's third software update to Java in nine days; however, this latest update release is the first one actually designed to detect and remove the Flashback trojan from Mac laptop devices, as well as patch up the Java vulnerabilities of which the trojan took advantage.

According to PCMag, another function of the update is to disable the Java plugin on all Web browsers (not just Safari) and turn off applet execution by default. In addition, Apple explained in its support document for the Java update, "Users may re-enable automatic execution of Java applets using the Java Preferences application. If the Java web plug-in detects that no applets have been run for an extended period of time it will again disable Java applets."

The Flashback trojan has been around in various forms since last September, but it wasn't until recently that it seemed to become a huge problem, prompting Java developer Oracle to release a security update back in February.

While Apple has been criticized for its slow response to the Flashback trojan, at least it seems its Java security updates have been working.

On April 12, ZDNet reported the results of a study conducted by security software developer Symantec, which found that the number of infected Macs has dropped to around 270,000 from more than 600,000 just last week.

Then again, it's just as likely the drop in infected devices is due to increasing awareness of the Flashback trojan's existence and to the release of tools to fight the malware by such Internet security companies as F-Secure, Symantec and Dr. Web, the firm that first discovered just how widely the trojan had spread back on April 4.

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