May 2, 2011 at 11:46 AM ET
It's not unusual for a new malware attack to pop up on the Internet every other moment, but the latest vicious bit of software floating around is particularly fascinating because it specifically targets Mac users.
The Next Web reports that a malware version of the popular MacDefender antivirus application is confusing and infecting a great number of Mac users right now:
Early reports show that users have been targeted as they search Google Images, one user stating that the bogus MacDefender application was automatically downloaded as he browsed images of Piranhas. Further searching through the Apple Discussion boards suggests that the malware campaign is targeting users of Apple’s Safari browser, displaying warnings that the user’s computer has been infected with viruses that only the unofficial MacDefender application can remove.
Part of the reason many are being easily infected by the malware is that Safari — the default browser in Mac OS — can be set to automatically open trusted software. This means that users are getting infected without even a hint of what's happening until the malicious app demands payment for "protection" like a digital mob boss.
The good news? So far it doesn't appear that the malicious MacDefender app does much, other than attempt to scare people into forking over their credit card numbers. It can even be easily removed:
As a precaution, it would be wise for Safari users to toggle the "Open 'safe' files after downloading" setting whether they're infected or not. It could prevent attacks similar to this one.