Mac Flashback Virus Infects 600,000: What Can You Do?

Security has often been cited as one of the big advantages Mac computers have over their Windows counterparts.

Windows users were under constant assault from viruses, Trojans, spyware, and malware of all kinds.

Mac users remained blissfully above the fray. Most never even considered buying or even installing a free computer security program.

Until last week.

Mac Flashback Virus Worldwide Outbreak Map

Where the Flashback Virus Has Spread

More than 600,00 Mac users were found to be infected with the Flashback Trojan, malware that exploits a Java security flaw to install itself on Macs. Most infected computers (56.6%) are in the U.S.

This isn’t the first Mac attack by any means. Just a year ago there was a fairly large attack called MacDefender.

But more people use Macs now and Flashback has gotten a lot of publicity, leading some to say it has, once and for all, ended Mac’s no-virus reputation.

Now for some comforting news for Mac users: though it’s a large infection, Flashback probably has only infected around 1% of Macs according to some estimates.

Secondly, Apple has already launched a couple of updates to identify and protect against Flashback, so if you get a Mac OS update notice, please don’t ignore it. You can also run your Mac’s Software Update at any time.

Keep in mind, however, that Apple’s Flashback security updates are only for OSX v10.7 and v10.6. Users with earlier operating systems who are concerned are encouraged by Apple to disable Java in their browser preferences. Here is more information about Flashback from Apple.

Though Apple is still working on a Flashback detection and removal tool, there are free 3rd party options available now.

Security vendor Dr.Web has a free online tool to check your system for the Flashback malware (specifically, Backdoor.Flashback.39). All you need to do is enter your Mac’s UUID (don’t worry, there are instructions on how to find it). Keep in mind, this is just a detection, not a removal tool.

Another security vendor, F-Secure, is offering a free tool that automatically detects and removes Flashback from your Mac. Download the free tool here and read the installation instructions.

If you are an EarthLink member and Mac user interested in ongoing protection for your computer, you can take advantage of these Special Offers on Norton Security software from our security partner Symantec.

2010 Spam Report

EarthLink is committed to protecting customers from email spam and viruses. We believe our partnerships with industry experts along with several proprietary technologies make a difference in our fight against spammers. Here are some interesting stats from 2010.
Earthlink systems:

• Detected that 90.6% of email sent to our customers contained email spam or a virus
• On average, stopped over 54,000 email spam and viruses infected messages from reaching customer mailboxes
• Identified 40% more virus infected spam messages in 2010 vs. 2009
• Received over 116 billion email messages during 2010, our systems detected over 104 billion contained email spam or viruses

Our systems stop roughly 1,000 email spam and virus messages for every message we missed and we will continue to work hard to stop even more spam and virus infected messages in 2011. If you receive a spam message and want to report it, follow these guidelines.

Protecting Your Computer from Malware

Computer viruses, worms, spyware and Trojan horses (aka Trojans) are all types of malicious software or malware.
Computer viruses can damage your computer or install software without your knowledge. Computer viruses are generally transmitted as email attachments or through USB flash drives. A computer virus might corrupt or delete data on your computer, use your e-mail program to spread itself to other computers, or even erase files on your hard drive.
Computer worms are designed to spread from computer to computer across a network usually without any human interaction. Worms exploit vulnerabilities (like weak passwords or software bugs) to gain access to a target computer.

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New Viruses Target Social Networking Sites, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace

The New Your Times recently published an article titled Viruses That Leave Victims Red in the Facebook. The article describes a new type of virus that targets Twitter and Facebook users. The virus hijacks a user’s social networking account and then transmits spam and viruses via emails to the victim’s Twitter or Facebook contacts. What makes these attacks so effective is that they originate from trusted sources.

As social networking viruses become more ubiquitous (Kaspersky Labs says that on some days, one in 500 links on Twitter point to bad sites that can infect an inadequately protected computer with typical viruses) it is important to be cautious. Do not click on suspicious links you receive from friends on social networking sites. If your social network account password is too simple, a fraudster can use techniques to take over the account (also known as hijacking) and send email messages to everyone in their friends list or address book. Follow these simple password security rules:

  • Don’t use a real word that can be looked up in a dictionary or a familiar pattern such as 12345.
  • Use a combination of letters numbers and special characters that can’t be connected back to any of your personal information.
  • Use upper and lower case letters and number combinations.
  • Password lengths should be 8 characters or greater.
  • Change passwords regularly.
  • Do not use the same password for all online accounts.

If you suspect a friend’s account has been compromised, do not access any suspect messages. Contact your friend directly and notifying them of the problem.