New viruses aimed at Apple

Computer experts have discovered two new viruses that target Apple computers, and they say more could be found in the future.That's the advice being passed to owners of Apple computers by computer experts.

They are sharing those words of wisdom because two viruses written to target Apple computers were discovered on the Internet last month and a major security hole in OS X, the latest operating system for Apple computers, was found.

While viruses and security weaknesses are almost everyday occurrences for owners of Windows-based computers, they are virtually unheard of in the world of Apple.

But that world is changing.

Computer security experts say more viruses and security flaws for Apple computers will be found in the near future. It's the price of popularity, they explained.

''You will start to see more exploits, but only because Apple has garnered a lot of attention in the past year,'' said Vincent Weafer, a senior director at Symantec. Symantec makes anti-virus and security software for computers.

''But it's certainly not the dam bursting,'' Weafer said, adding that Apple computers will be getting a lot more attention from virus writers and security experts.

TWO REASONS

There are two reasons Apple computers are in the spotlight, he said:

  • Apple recently switched to Intel chips for its computer processors. Intel chips primarily had been used in Windows machines. Though the Intel-based Apple computers have been on the market less than two months, researchers want to see if the switch will create Windows-like problems in Apple machines. Virus writers are hoping the chip creates more security holes that they can exploit.
  • Apple computers are becoming more popular, thanks to the success of Apple's iPod portable music player. Exact sales figures of Apple computers in the past year were not released by the company, but analysts said the company had stronger than expected sales of Macintosh computers in December.

The problems in Apple computers started in midFebruary, when two viruses were discovered.

One virus, named OSX.Leap.A, infects computers through Apple's iChat instant-messaging program. Once on a computer, it replicates and sends itself to all other computer users listed as contacts in iChat.

BLUETOOTH HIT

The other virus, OSX.Ingtana.A, is a worm that spreads itself through Bluetooth connections to Apple computers. Bluetooth is wireless technology that lets devices communicate at distances of about 30 feet.

Neither virus did much damage.

Despite the security threats, that doesn't mean that Apple computers suddenly have as many viruses and security weaknesses as Windows machines, Weafer said.

''There are 200 known worms for Apple computers, as opposed to a few hundred thousand for Windows computers,'' he said. "From a home user point of view, I would not panic or worry."

"But it's a good opportunity to go back and look at your computer practices and see if there's something that can be changed to make the computer a little safer.''

He said that Apple owners should check that their virus detection software and operating system are updated.