A history of viruses on the Mac

Yesterday we wrote about why it might be a good idea to use anti-virus on your Mac; it helps prevent the spread of viruses to Windows computers. That doesn't mean that there aren't viruses on a Mac as Apple might suggest in their Mac vs. PC advertisements. To follow up on why you might need an anti-virus client on your Mac, Sophos' Naked Security Blog compiled a history of viruses targeted at Apple computers. Fortunately the history of Mac viruses is short, the list for Windows viruses would be quite lengthy.

1982:
A 15 year old by the name of Rich Skrenta wrote the first virus for the Apple II called the Elk Cloner virus. The virus would infect the boot sector of an Apple II and on every 50th boot would display:

Elk Cloner: The program with a personality

It will get on all your disks
It will infiltrate your chips
Yes, it's Cloner!

It will stick to you like glue
It will modify RAM too
Send in the Cloner!

Rich has gone on to create the start-up Blekko, a search engine that claims to offer better search results than Google. Blekko was launched publicly on November 1, 2010.

1987:
A virus by the name if nVIR was released and spread via floppy disks. The source code was released shortly after the virus was introduced which led to a slew of variant versions. The virus affected Mac OS 4.1 through 8.0

1988:
HyperCard viruses were introduced. These viruses were similar to macro viruses found in Microsoft Office documents. Someone would write a malicious script which would execute on a computer causing a variety of problems for users. These viruses affected versions of the Mac OS all the way up to version 9.

1990:
The MDEF virus, also known as Garfield, would infect applications and system files. When infected the pull down menus would look garbled, the system would act oddly or even crash. There were several variants of the virus that were released in the months to follow.

1995:
The first Microsoft Word macro virus was introduced WM/Concept. This virus affected both Mac and PCs, it led to thousands of other macro viruses being introduced, many of which targeted the Mac version of Microsoft Office. This virus got a bit of a boost when Microsoft accidentally shipped some CDs containing the virus. The first CD, Microsoft Windows '95 Software Compatibility Test, was shipped to OEMs and contained a document with the virus. The second CD, Microsoft Office 95 and Windows 95 Business Guide, was released by Microsoft UK and also contained a document with the virus on it.

1996:
Laroux, the first Excel virus was introduced. Initially Mac users were immune to the virus until the release of Excel 98 which ended up making it possible for the two year old virus to start infecting Macs.

1998:
The Sevendust or 666 virus was introduced. This virus would erase all non-application files on the system. It was known as 666 because it would leave a file on your hard drive called 666 and it would only execute itself on the 6th hour of the 6th and 12th day of the month. The virus would also overwrite an applications menu with f (hex 16).

2004:
Renepo was introduced as a worm for OS X. The virus would attempt to disable the computers security settings and download a keylogger along with some programs that would allow someone to remotely control the computer.

2006:
A virus by the name of Leap-A was introduced. This virus was only able to spread if users opened the file containing the virus.

2007:
OSX/RSPlug-A was a trojan horse that would change DNS entries on the computer. It posed itself as a codec to help users view porn videos online.

2008:
The MacSweeper malware was introduced. It was embedded in poisoned advertisements that would then infect a Mac with a piece of malware similar to the Antivirus virus that Windows computers often get.

2009:
A trojan horse named OSX/iWorkS-A was spread to users who were downloading pirated versions of the iWork '09 software suite.

2010:
Finally, this year saw the introduction of the OSX/Pinhead or HellRTS virus was spread disguised as iPhoto. The virus would open up a back door to allow a hacker to remotely execute malicious code on the computer.

There are several variants to the viruses released and there may have been a few left out but the history of viruses on the Mac is fairly short. With the introduction of OSX most of the viruses only spread when users executed something they were not entirely familiar with from a source that may have been less than trustworthy. That doesn't mean that threats are not present, there is still a chance a flaw can be exploited and your computer could become infected.

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OMGAZAD... Windohs sucks compared to OSX.
NUH UHHH... OSX sucks compared to Windowz.

Will you guys stop acting like mentaly challenged 4 year olds who have a bad habit of drinking turpentine with a side of paint chips?

If you think this is a complete list... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think Mac is virus free... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think Windows is just an open door for viruses and Malware... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think 3+5=9... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think anyone likes Lady GaGa.... YOU ARE AN IDIOT AND SO IS SHE.

Grow up, and stop bashing back and forth. Write your own SUPER secure SUPER amazing OS and then maybe we will take the time to even pretend to read your comments.

Now, if you are one of the above mentioned... /cut wrists.

csin said,
OMGAZAD... Windohs sucks compared to OSX.
NUH UHHH... OSX sucks compared to Windowz.

Will you guys stop acting like mentaly challenged 4 year olds who have a bad habit of drinking turpentine with a side of paint chips?

If you think this is a complete list... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think Mac is virus free... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think Windows is just an open door for viruses and Malware... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think 3+5=9... YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
If you think anyone likes Lady GaGa.... YOU ARE AN IDIOT AND SO IS SHE.

Grow up, and stop bashing back and forth. Write your own SUPER secure SUPER amazing OS and then maybe we will take the time to even pretend to read your comments.

Now, if you are one of the above mentioned... /cut wrists.

Best post ever. You were doing great up until the Lady GaGa comment. But still great.

Mac users do not need to purchase an antivirus program for the same reason that really ugly people that smell bad don't need to purchase condoms. There's always the chance something might happen, but it's not very likely because nobody seems interested. But, when that rare person comes along that has a special thing for ugly, smelly people... BANG, they're infected.

Since most people on Neowin are to lazy to look up the original article before posting, here is an piece of text from the original article that will explain why this list does not contain every single malware that the Mac has ever seen.

"From the early 1980s, right up until the present day, here are some of the highlights in the history of Apple Mac malware."

ILikeTobacco said,
Since most people on Neowin are to lazy to look up the original article before posting,

Or just so used to inline AD links on websites that withougt the " SOURCE " link at e end of the article like is normally on articles, that it ws thought the poster did the article himself using unlinked resources, and didnt notice the source link was in the actual paragraph

I've always said this: it's obvious that no one bothers to create mallware for an OS with a totally insignificant market share. Apple took this and turned it to "our macs can't get viruses", and stupid people believe it even today. Windows is a target, and it's quite normal to be so, but that doesn't make it unsecure. If the roles were reversed, Windows would be the safest thing on earth. Get real people.

TDT said,
If the roles were reversed, Windows would be the safest thing on earth. Get real people.

So your saying Mac's are currently the safest thing on earth since the roles are not reversed... wow...

TDT said,

If the roles were reversed, Windows would be the safest thing on earth. Get real people..

ILikeTobacco said,

So your saying Mac's are currently the safest thing on earth since the roles are not reversed... wow...

+1 - it's true... sort of like the ugly baby that doesn't get kissed by strangers doesn't get sick as often as the pretty babies.

TDT said,
I've always said this: it's obvious that no one bothers to create mallware for an OS with a totally insignificant market share. Apple took this and turned it to "our macs can't get viruses", and stupid people believe it even today. Windows is a target, and it's quite normal to be so, but that doesn't make it unsecure. If the roles were reversed, Windows would be the safest thing on earth. Get real people.

You're right on the money, TDT. Apple uses false advertising all the time. And, it works for the gullible folks. If it didn't, their market share would be even more insignificant than what it is. The fact that they have gained a little market share in the last couple of years simply proves there are more gullible people than there used to be.

TDT said,
Apple took this and turned it to "our macs can't get viruses", and stupid people believe it even today.
Has Apple ever said Macs don't get viruses?

Read Apple's wording very carefully, they say that:

"Macs don't get thousands of viruses" or
"You don't have to deal with thousands of viruses" or
"Macs don't get PC viruses" or
"There's 114,000 viruses for PCs... but not for Macs"

All of which are true. None of them say there are no viruses for Macs.

download only things you trust, don't run silly website scripts when you are prompted, use a router, I mean common how hard is it really for the people that are here on Neowin?

The average user, you know the people who don't really understand the workings of a computer or those that are into downloading lots of stuff then yeah get an anti virus or just be sensible.

It doesn't matter what OS you run people can always happily create scripts to be malicious if the reward is great enough.

Recap: We're looking at like five trojans/worms for today's Mac OS X opposed to many thousands for Windows.

Honestly, it takes all of two minutes to change the root password on a Mac, giving you access to everything. Try doing that on a Windows machine.

satukoro said,
Honestly, it takes all of two minutes to change the root password on a Mac, giving you access to everything. Try doing that on a Windows machine.

As far as I know only when you have physical access to it, not over the internet or network.

Chances of getting a virus on OS X are slim, next to none. And the cherry on top? There's already a built-in antivirus in Snow Leopard.

Every time I use Windows I'm very careful though. You need to assume much more responsibility if you're a Windows user.

PsykX said,
Chances of getting a virus on OS X are slim, next to none. And the cherry on top? There's already a built-in antivirus in Snow Leopard.

Every time I use Windows I'm very careful though. You need to assume much more responsibility if you're a Windows user.

"As anticipated, Apple's latest Mac OS, Snow Leopard, includes antivirus protection. Of course it's a bit of a misnomer to label Snow Leopard's limited detection of two types of trojans as "antivirus"."
http://antivirus.about.com/b/2...-snow-leopard-antivirus.htm

I only use virus software at work because it's essential, so many people using the computers and inserting different media so it's critical. But for my home network i have non at all, not for windows 7 so certainly not for OSX..

You can push the lame virus list onto OSX users all you want, the chance of getting a virus is still pretty slim, and by the looks of things if you do get a virus it will be your own fault (ie. downloading pirate software).

So in 2009 and 2010 the Viruses you could get were via downloading pirated software.

And only 1 entry per year? - Yeah I don't think I'll bother with an Antivirus for my Mac.

This is actually an original! Thanks! Surprising to see so few examples... that's good I guess... for now at least!

phdem said,
This is actually an original! Thanks! Surprising to see so few examples... that's good I guess... for now at least!

Who said this was an all-inclusive list? And, even if it were, it's due to a lack of popularity--not a lack of vulnerability.

Good to see they included the Macro virus even though it was an office fault that allowed it to occur, it still affected both machines. And iirc it got worse after being opened on a mac

hotdog963al said,
Go into an Apple store and *try* to infect one of the machines. You will fail.
Alternatively don't, because you will get arrested.

This story supports why I don't use and don't need AV on my Mac. I life without worrying about and managing software to keep me safe from viruses, trojans, malware and spyware and more is a better life.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Remember those days well (mid 80's to the mid 90's). From 87 to 92 I worked in my Universality's IT (Information System back in the day) department, and we had if I remember right choose to 90 Macs located around the campus, and it just seemed every day we were out reformatting the Macs to clean the Virus off of them.

In the student computer lab's (three) we had to separate the Macs into their own section then close it off to where the students had to go through a check point; their floppy disc would be placed in a computer with an anti virus program. If a virus appeared they were given their disc back and were not allowed entry.

If I remember right the anti virus program came from the Universality of Wisconsin who put out continuing updates every couple of weeks.

To be honest when your virus history is listed in years it's a good thing. We could probably do a monthly list

Oh and yea pre OSX doesn't mean anything for the mac really, before OSX MacOS sucked

Rudy said,
To be honest when your virus history is listed in years it's a good thing. We could probably do a monthly list

Oh and yea pre OSX doesn't mean anything for the mac really, before OSX MacOS sucked

Yep when I was in highschool we had a bunch of Macs running OS 8.5 or something. I'm not kidding those things would lock up every time you would sit down.

Rudy said,
To be honest when your virus history is listed in years it's a good thing. We could probably do a monthly list

Oh and yea pre OSX doesn't mean anything for the mac really, before OSX MacOS sucked

You say this like OS X doesn't have a level of suck to it... (1980s kernel design matched with 1970s *nix constructs added to 1980s postscript and 1980s programming models is not cutting edge or even relevant in terms of 'technology')

thenetavenger said,

You say this like OS X doesn't have a level of suck to it... (1980s kernel design matched with 1970s *nix constructs added to 1980s postscript and 1980s programming models is not cutting edge or even relevant in terms of 'technology')


How old exactly do you think Windows' NT kernel is?

Been running Antivirus on my Mac for quite some time now. Not because of fear of getting them, but more or less in preparation for when the writers get all vigilant and start going after us Mac users. Currently using Sophos for my system. Silent and works great.

I view it basically the same as if you are going to go have intercourse with someone - always stay safe and never be sorry by thinking you are invulnerable!

Right now, I am certain that writers don't focus too much on the Mac or Linux because they are on the lower end of the popularity polls. Less systems to infect means less of a return in revenue for the adware writers and less info for the spyware writers to harvest. Once the use of these systems rises to a more respectable level, then of course, they will be writing them daily and sending them out all the time.

Now of course, having your system 100% in the cloud (in the next decade or less) will be mostly safe because it can be sandboxed and of course the system admins will have their necks cut short if they end up not keeping their servers clean.

Medfordite said,

Now of course, having your system 100% in the cloud (in the next decade or less) will be mostly safe because it can be sandboxed and of course the system admins will have their necks cut short if they end up not keeping their servers clean.
Well, they then may not attack the end user per se, but the servers your data is stored on and attempt to get access to it, which would be bad.

Yeah, my Media Access Control address can do barely anything compared to my Mac or my PC.

I doubt it has the same level of security built in either.

yowan said,
MAC is not so safe as Win

While they are at it I think they need an article on the front page about how it's spelled Mac NOT MAC!!

warwagon said,

While they are at it I think they need an article on the front page about how it's spelled Mac NOT MAC!!

+1!

Of course, this is only a list of the most popular ones. There are more for Mac than what's on the list!

Raa said,
Of course, this is only a list of the most popular ones. There are more for Mac than what's on the list!

Such as, ie, therefor?

CoolBits said,

None of these works on current OSX... do they even exist in realworld?
Go and buy their iantivirus software if you belive them... i dont.

Stop crying man...

Before Windows 95, viruses were a far greater problem on Macs than on PC's, because when you inserted a floppy disk, they would look for a program with a particular filename and automatically execute it. DOS, and hence Windows before Windows 95, didn't have this "feature."

AndrewLee said,
Before Windows 95, viruses were a far greater problem on Macs than on PC's, because when you inserted a floppy disk, they would look for a program with a particular filename and automatically execute it. DOS, and hence Windows before Windows 95, didn't have this "feature."

Don't point out the past of Macintosh before the UNIX subsystem! that is blasphamy to bring up pre OSX versions to an Apple fan!

neufuse said,

Don't point out the past of Macintosh before the UNIX subsystem! that is blasphamy to bring up pre OSX versions to an Apple fan!

It's as irrelevant as Windows once being based on DOS. Both are in the past. Currently, we're in the world of NT for Windows, and UNIX for OS X.

Simon said,
It's as irrelevant as Windows once being based on DOS. Both are in the past. Currently, we're in the world of NT for Windows, and UNIX for OS X.

+1

neufuse said,

Don't point out the past of Macintosh before the UNIX subsystem! that is blasphamy to bring up pre OSX versions to an Apple fan!


You sound like an girlfriend fighting a lost cause by trying to bring past bad events to make the boyfriend look bad, rather that fighting about the current issue.

offroadaaron said,

You sound like an girlfriend fighting a lost cause by trying to bring past bad events to make the boyfriend look bad, rather that fighting about the current issue.

Hahahahahahaha! Freaking awesome dude!

auziez said,
lol, false advertising. gullible fan boys beleived it too...*sigh*

I wouldn't say I'm a fanboy I just don't like MS Windows as I'm a *nix guy so I Macs, anyway the chances of getting a virus compared to a Windows box is slim to none.

offroadaaron said,

I wouldn't say I'm a fanboy I just don't like MS Windows as I'm a *nix guy so I Macs, anyway the chances of getting a virus compared to a Windows box is slim to none.

Didn't see the Sophos report from a couple of days ago, huh?

offroadaaron said,

I wouldn't say I'm a fanboy I just don't like MS Windows as I'm a *nix guy so I Macs, anyway the chances of getting a virus compared to a Windows box is slim to none.

Depends on the user...

C:Amie said,
Didn't see the Sophos report from a couple of days ago, huh?
Eventually it will happen as this article stated, but compared to the amount of viruses that are released for windows every single day can equal this entire list of Mac viruses for the last 30 years

C:Amie said,
Didn't see the Sophos report from a couple of days ago, huh?

Didn't read the Sophos report from a couple days ago, huh? The viruses that were reported were windows viruses that were mostly harmless on the OSX. The only reason they brought out the report was to show that while they are harmless to a OSX, they pose a threat to Windows computers if they get moved from the OSX back to Windows. Reading comprehension fail.

"The results show that the majority of files are more dangerous on Windows than on a Mac but that doesn't mean the virus goes away. If you plan to share files with a Windows computer it would be a good idea to maintain some sort of anti-virus protection just to be sure you are not spreading a virus to a more vulnerable operating system."

auziez said,
lol, false advertising. gullible fan boys beleived it too...*sigh*

The article is incomplete (alt.comp.viruses FAQ has a complete list) but if you take it to be accurate and representative then you can count the total number of Mac worms/viruses and malware in the last 3 decades on your fingers.

Of those listed only 1 hands worth are capable of running on any Mac shipped in the last 5 years and half of those require the user to seek out and install something (no platform can protect a user from that).

If anything this article supports the spercoius claims that macs are virus immune. An infection rate of sub-1% is within the margin of error on virus surveys.