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AppleCare reps instructed not to help customers with Mac malware

Remember this fake antivirus, MAC Defender, that was making its rounds amongst Mac users earlier this month? Despite its simple payload and method of execution -- which requires manual intervention on the part of the user -- this piece of rogueware managed to cause a sharp rise in support calls to AppleCare. Customers calling into Apple for help with removing MAC Defender and its variants are frustrated over two problems - first, they're dealing with this problem on machines that, according to Apple marketing literature, were advertised as being relatively free of viruses and malware compared to "the other guys." Consumer naivety aside, the second problem reinforces said marketing literature - AppleCare support representatives are officially told not to help customers with removal of malware according to the Terms of Service for AppleCare.

Despite that, some AppleCare support representatives are helping customers as they face four to five times the normal volume of support calls. This information comes from an interview conducted with an AppleCare representative by Ed Bott on condition of anonymity. According to the representative, the policy of refusing to help with malware removal is there to prevent a precedent from being set over what AppleCare is there for. Still, the representative found it hard to refuse help in situations such as this:

AppleCare Rep: Well, I’m sure you’re aware of what Mac Defender pops up on your screen if you don’t buy it. Last call i got before the weekend was a mother screaming at her kids to get out of the room because she didn’t want them seeing the images. So, panicking, yes, I’d say that would be the situation usually. I had a teacher call about Mac Defender last week.

Ed Bott: So you are supposed to tell them that the Terms of Service don’t allow you to help them remove it, and they should … what?

AppleCare Rep : Well, in the agreement for AppleCare, it does state we don’t help with malware. However, just because we’re told we’re not to help people get rid of it, most of us do.

Ed Bott: Taking a little risk there? i assume your calls are randomly monitored and you could get a warning if someone decides to be a hardass.

AppleCare Rep: Indeed we are monitored, but I can’t personally justify telling a father who’s freaking out about what his 6-year-old daughter just saw that I can’t help him out. Our on-floor managers and QA guys do their best to let it slide, but if they start getting pushed from higher-ups, we could face write-ups and even termination.

The representative's best recommendation would be for Mac customers to install antivirus suites, some of which are free for personal use. Given the imminent rise of Mac rogueware and malware in the wild, will Apple take the responsible step of informing their customers that they too need to be as proactive as their Windows-using neighbors? Or will they continue to tow the line of their marketing team?

Image Credit: Intego

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