Virus targets Mac OS X users

A new virus targeting Mac OS X is not expected to cause much trouble. But malcode experts said it should serve as a warning to those using alternatives to Microsoft that their machines are not attack-proof.

“I don’t see this particular virus as much of a threat, but I worry about the functionality of it,” said Mikko Hypponen, director of antivirus research for Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure Corp. “It shows there’s a lot of activity in the underground hacking community to find ways to attack Macintosh systems.”

The virus, known as Opener or Renopo, attempts to turn off the Mac OS X firewall and other security software. It will download and install hacker tools for password-sniffing and cracking, make key system directories world-writeable and create an admin-level user for later system abuse, according to Lynnfield, Mass.-based antivirus firm Sophos. It also turns off accounting and logging functions to help hide its presence, the company said.

“Mac users tend to be zealous about how their computers are more attack-proof than Microsoft systems, and this virus illustrates that’s not really the case,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “There have always been viruses that target Macintosh, just fewer. This virus isn’t a pressing danger. But it’s a shot across the bow for Mac users, a warning that they can’t turn a blind eye to security.”