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Flashback Attack Part 2

Flashback Attack Part 2
by Gary Woods

Last week we talked about the Flashback Virus that came knocking back in November 2011 and infected about 600,000 Mac users. This week we'll look at what Apple did in response to this infection.

First off, Apple historically hasn't been all that aggressive about virus attacks basically because it hasn't had to be. Most of the virus attacks in the world are pointed at Microsoft Windows so as a consequence they got pretty good at battling the bad guys. Their response time for virus attacks is usually excellent and when you put that together with people like Norton, Kaspersky and McAfee constantly feeding updated virus definitions to their users things are held pretty much in check in the PC world. The last big outbreak on the PC side was the Conficker Worm which infected a reported 600,000 users. But I digress, so let's get back to Apple.

Apple took about two months to update the OS X with a patched version. The company has a number of software components from third-party vendors and the Open Source software community and Apple's record in updating this code isn't great. As you may have noticed the latest version of OS X, Lion, doesn't include Flash or Java but a lot of users still install these tools on their own.

While Apple was lagging in response to the outbreak companies like Norton and Kaspersky jumped into the fray with Flashback-fighting and Removal Tools. There were some hiccups along the way however like Kaspersky Lab's suspending distribution of its tool to remove Flashback malware saying that the tool itself was making unacceptable alterations to user computers. The company then came up with another tool called Flashback Checker which remains in use. Norton also unveiled a free Flashback removal tool that they made available as a download that they said fixed the problem. Then, Apple came up with a Flashback Malware Removal Tool which the company says, "removes the most common variants of the Flashback Malware."

Finally, Apple came up with the latest Java update which removes the known variants of the Flashback malware from infected Max OS X systems. Plus, it automatically disables Java if it has not been used during the previous 35 days. Once disabled, users have to manually re-enable Java in order for Java applets to run again.

Next week we'll look at some of the things that you can do to protect yourself from the next virus attack to the Mac.

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc