Security Experts:

Latest Mac Malware Was Just Waiting to be Found

Just before the launch date of Apple’s latest and greatest, Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), security vendors were in a flutter over the claimed discovery of a new piece of malware that targets Mac users. Yet, the malware hasn't been found in the wild, and it was discovered within a repository designed to share potentially malicious samples with the security community.

On Tuesday, Mac-based AV firm Intego broke the story that a new type of malware was discovered that targets Apple’s darling. Called Crisis, the Trojan creates a backdoor on an infected Mac as long as it runs OS X version 10.6 or 10.7.

Mac OS Crisis Malware“If the dropper runs on a system with Admin permissions, it will drop a rootkit to hide itself. In either case, it creates a number of files and folders to complete its tasks. It creates 17 files when it’s run with Admin permissions, 14 files when it’s run without. Many of these are randomly named, but there are some that are consistent,” Intego noted in a blog post.

Intego wasn’t the only firm to discover Crisis. In fact, any AV company that receives samples from the Virus Total service, which is all of the AV companies in the market today, also received (or discovered) the existence of Crisis. The malware itself isn’t being used in a targeted campaign, and it isn’t actively circulating in the wild. It was a sample discovered in the Virus Total vaults and shipped to the various vendors via a daily updates.

We’re not sure why this was even a story at first, but then the panic laced headlines started to arrive. With the news cycle shifting to focus on Apple’s pending release of Mountain Lion; we felt it best to remove the FUD.

While it is true that there is malware online that can infect a Mac, such as Flashback, Crisis isn’t a – well – crisis. It’s just another example of code that was likely submitted to Virus Total in an attempt to gauge detection rates.

Now that all of the security firms have a copy of Crisis, even if it was circulated online users with AV on their Mac are sure to be protected. Moreover, examination of the code has focused on users running with Admin permissions, it is unknown if Crisis even works without administrator rights.

We’ll update this story if that changes. For now, Crisis hardly lives up to its name, but it is worth keeping an eye on and being aware of, if your organization has Macs on the network.

Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.