Two Viruses Target the Macintosh

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Two viruses written for the Mac OS X operating system appeared recently, the first ones to appear on the Mac in years. Virus writers tend to focus on the vastly more popular Windows operating system. While surprising, neither of the two viruses is particularly dangerous.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

On Mondays our business report focuses on technology. Today a first for Macs.

Something rare has happened to the Mac OS-10 operating system. It's been attacked by a virus, as NPR's Adam Davidson reports.

ADAM DAVIDSON reporting:

Last week was about as exciting as it gets at the offices of Sophos, a leading British anti-virus company. Someone spotted a virus for the Mac.

Graham Cluley is a Sophos spokesman.

Mr. GRAHAM CLUELY (Sophos Senior Tech Consultant): The analysts start fighting between themselves as to which one of them is going to be lucky enough to analyze it, because it's something new for them to get their teeth into.

DAVIDSON: there are about 60 new viruses every day, but pretty much all are for Microsoft's Windows operating system. There hasn't been a virus for the Apple Macintosh for years. In fact, Sophos doesn't even employ full-time Mac specialists, Cluley says.

Mr. CLULEY: We don't have people who only handle Mac viruses, because normally they'd be sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

DAVIDSON: A little more than two percent of all computer users have Macs. So, Cluley says, virus writers focus on the vastly more popular Windows system. This new Mac virus isn't dangerous. Users have to activate it by opening a file that promises images of Mac's next operating system. Then it sends itself to any buddies listed in Mac's iChat software. It doesn't damage the computer or steal data. At worst it clogs things up a bit. The second Mac virus, one that attacks Mac's Bluetooth wireless technology, is even less risky.

Most Windows viruses, on the other hand, are designed specifically to steal valuable information like credit card or bank account numbers. The writers of the new Mac viruses are not seeking fortune, but rather fame, Cluley says.

Mr. CLULEY: These are people who are showing off. They're basically saying, Na-na-na-na-na, you know, You guys at Macintosh, you can have a virus as well as the Windows guys. They saw it as an intellectual challenge and so they wrote one to prove it could be done.

DAVIDSON: Cluley says these two new viruses don't scare him, but he wouldn't be at all surprised to see more destructive viruses in the future.

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

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