Skip to comments.Apple Orders Technicians to Feign Ignorance About Mac Malware
Posted on 05/20/2011 4:59:09 PM PDT by Swordmaker
Apple hopes that if it pretends that malware doesn't exist its customers will believe so too. Apple techs are under strict orders not to help customers who are suffering from malware infe Employees claim ~6 percent of Macs are now infected by malware, though many Mac owners are convinced their computers are "immune" to such problems. (Source: Cult of Mac) Microsoft actually helps protect its customers from malware programs and acknowledges they exist. It even offers its customers free protection. (Source: iTech News Net) Jobs and company hope to keep customers ignorant of the truth
Apple, Inc. (AAPL) long had the good fortune (from a certain perspective) of not being very popular with consumers and thus gaining security through obscurity. With millions of Macs in the wild and Apple sitting pretty in fourth place in PC sales, though, the company is seeing an increasing number of malware attacks.
I. The Customers Want the Truth? They Can't HANDLE the Truth!
In response to these attacks Apple has reportedly implemented a policy which is equal measures bizarre and baffling -- it's telling technicians to adopt a "don't ask don't tell" policy with regards to customers complaints about malware, feigning ignorance on the topic.
An Apple Store Genius (store technician) leaked internal documents to ArsTechnica. One memo reads:
Apple Internal Use Only - Issue/Investigation in Progress - Confidential Information - Do Not Disclose Externally
Customers may call AppleCare to report and issue with malware (trojan) software known as Mac Defender or Mac Security, or because they are concerned that their Mac could become infected. The name may vary as new variants are released onto the internet. This malware is installed from malicious websites.
Mac OS X 10.6, Mac OS X 10.5, Mac OS X 10.4
A second memo adds:
- Do not confirm or deny that any such software has been installed.
- Do not attempt to remove or uninstall any malware software.
- Do not send escalations or contact Tier 2 for support about removing the software or provide impact data.
- Do not refer customers to the Apple Retail Store. The ARS does not provide any additional support for malware.
The disgusted Apple employee is quoted as stating, "Frankly, it's Social Engineering at it's finest. In some respects, I feel a little bad for the people hit by this, but at the same time, I can't help but be frustrated that people inherently trust everything they're prompted to do on their machines. The beauty of Mac OS X is its security model. That people blindly enter a password is going to be the undoing of it."
(The employee's comments allude to that Apple's OS requires users to verify installations using a feature similar to the UAC found in Windows 7.)
II. How Widespread is the problem?
Andy says that in the past about 0.2 percent of service Macs were suffering from some kind of malware -- "most always DNS trojans." Now that number soared to around 5.8 percent, mostly thanks to MacDefender -- a trojan that DailyTech previously reported on.
The employee states, "There's been a very real uptick in the number of malware instances we've seen."
"With regard to how the company is dealing with it, the answer is not very well," he adds. "As you know, OS X requires an admin user to authenticate and OK the install for pretty much anything that's not drag and drop. The response has been a case of 'they installed it, so it's not our problem.' Until something that makes use of a zero-day exploit hits, I really doubt that we're going to do anything, technology wise, to address this."
But is the OS X security model really superior to Windows 7?
Famed Mac security expert Charlie Miller, who won multiple years for the fast Mac hack at Pwn2Own, comments, "Mac OS X is no more secure than any other operating system. It has vulnerabilities, and it will let you download and run malware. The difference is that there simply isn't that much malware written for it. The bad guys have focused all their energies at Windows, which makes up the vast majority of the computers out there. However, as market share for Macs continues to inch up, that equation is going to change and bad guys will begin to focus in on Macs, if that hasn't already started to happen. And as I mentioned above, Macs are no more inherently secure than Windows, so when the bad guys decide to go after them with gusto, it'll get ugly fast."
Other hackers have also commented that OS X 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") has inferior security to Windows 7. To boot, Apple doesn't provide users with free antimalware software like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) does.
III. How Long Can Apple Keep up the Charade?
In recent months botnet-forming worms and trojans have targeted OS X. Most of these pieces of malware have been amateurish efforts, though, or works in progress. Nonetheless it remains a very real possibility that Apple could one day see a serious attack.
The question remains how long Apple can continue to manage to deceive its customers and obfuscate the fact that its platform has malware on it, and that the threat is growing.
But the line still seems to be working on the most gullible of Mac users. For example in our coverage of the MacDefender infection one pro-Apple commentator and self proclaimed "expert", "TonySwash" wrote:
In the real world actual and successful malware attacks on Macs are virtually unknown, and if there are any at all the number is vanishingly small.
The really embarrassing thing is not that Windows get's (sic) all that malware, that's just the result of piss poor design decisions going back decades, what's really shameful is the way that some Windows fans choose to deal with this reality. They deny it. It's not Microsoft or Windows faults (sic), it's everybody's problem, or if it's not everybody's problem then its (sic) some sort of perverse reflection of Windows strength (sic).
Eventually Apple may have to face the music, though, particularly if customers take legal action against it for feigning ignorance, now that corporate documents have revealed that Apple is well aware of the attacks on its platform.
There's plenty of things you can fault Microsoft and the Windows platform for, but one thing you can say in their favor is that at least when they encounter malware they try to help customers and counter rather than claiming their products are "magic" and have no problems.
In liberal-land, refusing to acknowledge the existence of an issue is the ultimate ecstasy of power.
I don't believe it... I certainly don't see that. Nor do I see the pop-up in my browsing..
I think we are seeing FUD season...
If you want on or off the Mac Ping List, Freepmail me.
It is humorous that a bunch that considers themselves to be so enlightened worship pieces of plastic, pieces of plastic that require Apple evangelists to push.
Interesting Fact: In marketing surveys used to single out groups willing to pay huge premiums for hyped name brands, two of the main questions are:
1) Do you listen to NPR?
2) Do you own any Apple products?
Macs used to have “security through obscurity”.
Now they have “obscurity for security”.
So did Toyota.
Those that have no clue make clueless comments (and they are almost all MicroSuck customers!). I didn't pay too much for my computers. I probably did pay too much for my last Big Mac!
But, those children don't rally like to admit they made a mistake and bought a system that WILL be susceptible to viruses and trojans and need to buy lots of software to fight against it. Unfortunately, few succeed like Apple...
I believe you’re right. We haven’t seen any evidence of anything like this in our district, and we have thousands of macs. In order for this to be anything like true, I should be seeing this garbage, but I’m not. Also, wouldn’t this sort of “instruction” be showing up for those who are Apple-certified techs, as well as the geniuses? FUD. Whether someone is a fan of Apple, or a fan of Windows or Linux, this just does not present truth.
The Windows Defender infection (the WinDoh!s version, iow) really sucks, but gets installed because some nimmy clicks on one of those idiotic “your machine is infected” hoax ads. Whomever wrote it, updates it, and/or distributes it through those hoax ads should be executed without trial, Middle Ages style (shown their entrails before they’re given the axe).
I got one a couple days ago when I clicked on a picture on Google. MacScan identified it, but couldn’t delete it. It just downloaded a zip file did not install, but hid in the trash, I used tinker tool to empty trashes, seems to have deleted it. MacOSX...... Something should have made note of the name I guess.
I have never bought any security software for windows (I use free), and all of my computers have been discards from other people, including this 10 year old one that is my current computer.
People don’t “need” to buy security software.
Is this like the Ron Paul approach to computer security? Hide under the covers and pretend it isn’t there?
How do I detect it? Remove it?
Yes. I’ve had IT guys tell me the stuff distributed by the ISPs work fine. I’d used Norton in the past, but it always blew itself up within a couple years.
The good news is I was able to have my Sister take care of the problem within 5 minutes of her mentioning it to me during a phone call, as it was a variant of 'Mac Defender', and I had read about that earlier (thanks Swordmaker).
So it's out there, but it requires some work on the part of the user for it to get installed, and therefore indicates that some folks need some <sigh> retraining on basic computer security.
I call BS. I am on the net pretty much 12 hours a day and I have yet to run across this so-called malware. Besides, you have to agree to install the crap sheesh.
So the question is... How long before this backfires in Apple’s face? Just stupid! To pretend Malware does not exist is equivalent to Apple claiming the world is flat.
Needless to say, by depending on discarded computers I have become expert at cleaning them up considering that it is the malware that got them into my hands in the first place.
Malware really works out for me, their computers get slow and glitchy, so they buy new and I move up.
When you don’t care about the contents of the drives, it’s amazing what you can do to cleanse viruses. Wipe the drive, march 1s and 0s across the drive, and start from scratch. Simple, really. Its when really nasty viruses cause hardware damage...ah, there’s the rub.
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