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New Malware Strain Detected for Mac OS X

If you’re a Mac owner, you might think that you don’t have to worry about computer viruses and other types of malware. Those are troubles that PC users have to deal with, right? Not so fast. A new alert illustrates the dangers that Mac users must be aware of and protect against.

A new malware strain that affects Mac OS X has been discovered recently. While the malicious software is currently categorized as “low risk,” the strain, known as HellRTS, opens a backdoor on infected computers that grants access to remote users. There are no known reports of an infection on a Mac, but the malware has been traded on forums by hackers, meaning that cybercriminals could take control of infected Macs if the malware is successfully installed (although the strain isn’t “out in the wild” yet). To ensure your Mac’s safety, click on “Preferences” in your Safari browser and turn off the “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading.” And, as always, only download or launch files from trusted sources.

While the recent discovery of the HellRTS strain isn’t a cause for immediate panic, it should alert Mac loyalists of potential trouble on the horizon. If nothing else, users should be wary that it is only a matter of time before Mac-focused cyberthreats become more imminent as hackers figure out new ways to exploit the system.

In recent years, certain computer experts (and Mac enthusiasts) have criticized the security problems Windows users face, compared to the superior protection of Mac products. As Arik Hesseldahl claimed in his 2009 article, “On Macs and Malware,” featured in Business Week, “a Mac user can exist happily without using anti-virus software on their computer.” Hesseldahl does admit, however, that Macs are susceptible to trojans, as this type of malware is typically transferred when the user is tricked into believing that he/she is downloading something else.

Even Apple admits that no platform is completely foolproof. The Security Advice on the Mac OS X webpage states: “The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box. However, since no system can be 100 percent immune from every threat, antivirus software may offer additional protection.”

Even if you’re a Mac user who isn’t yet convinced that antivirus software is necessary, there are certain precautions you should take. By following common internet safety practices, such as surfing safely, avoiding common phishing scams, and updating all browsers, you can maintain an adequate level of cybersecurity.

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