Trick the Trojans – switch to Mac, say security experts

Security experts at Sophos PLC are recommending home users should switch to Mac, warning of a huge wave of malevolent Trojan malware attacks.

The company has published new research into the past six months of cyber crime: the ‘Sophos Security Threat Management Report Update’. This reveals that while there has been a vast drop in new viruses and worms, this has been over-compensated for by increases in other types of malware, as cyber criminals turn their attention to stealing information and money.

Trojans now outweigh viruses and worms by 4:1, compared with 2:1 in the first half of 2005. As Windows-based threats continue to dominate, the researchers are recommending home users should switch to Mac, in an attempt to protect themselves from malware.

Findings show that the most widespread threat from January to date is the Sober-Z worm, which, at its peak, accounted for one in every 13 emails. Netsky-P and Zafi-B took second and first place in prevalence, between them these three Trojans accounted for 43.5 per cent of all malware activity in the first six months of 2006. None of them affect any platform except Windows.

“While the first malware for Mac OS X was seen in February 2006, it has not spread in the wild and has not heralded an avalanche of malicious code aimed at Macs,” the analysts state.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said: “Hackers seem happy to primarily target Windows users and not spread their wings to other platforms. It seems likely that Macs will continue to be the safer place for computer users for some time to come – something that home users may wish to consider if they’re deliberating about the next computer they should purchase.”

2006 has also seen the introduction of a new kind of Trojan horse attack, in which infected users can find their data and files kidnapped and held to ransom. Affected users are typically blackmailed into paying to have their data retrieved or risk losing it altogether. Three recent examples include the Ransom-A, Zippo-A and Arhiveus-A Trojans.

“Criminals are constantly finding new ways to get their hands on some easy cash and now they’ve stooped to blackmail,” continued Cluley. “Given these filthy tactics, it’s understandable that authorities are giving out increasingly harsh sentences for crimes of this nature.”

A PDF version of the ‘Sophos Security Threat Management Report Update’ is available for download at this Web site

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