Last updateFri, 22 Apr 2016 9am

Marking 35 years of Mac viruses

The Jardin of San Miguel was recently the scene of an amicable conversation I had with a Mac user who insisted there was no such thing as a Mac virus.  I am a Mac user too, and perhaps I have a little better memory on this subject.  As promised, here is a much abbreviated chronology.

1981 – The first ever computer virus in the wild infected Apple II computers.  The “Elk Cloner” virus displayed a poem when the computer was booted.  This was two years before the first virus attacked the IBM PC.

1987 – The nVIR virus and a rash of copy-cat variants began to infect Macintosh computers.

1988 – The HyperCard virus was not deliberately destructive and simply displayed a message supporting the election of Michael Dukakis.  Later versions in the 1990s played German folk music.

1990 - The MDEF/Garfield virus damaged Macs by corrupting application and system files.

1995 – The Microsoft Office macro language included an example named “Concept” which was not written with malicious intent but which was quickly altered into a macro virus.  Thousands of variants have been infecting systems ever since.

1996 - Laroux was the first macro virus, infecting both Windows and Mac computers.

1997 – Two major malware outbreaks hit the Mac world.  A worm named “AutoStart 9805” spread rapidly through the desktop publishing community.  A virus “Sevendust” or “666” infected and corrupted application files causing thousands of Macs to crash.

2004 – With the introduction of OS-X in 2001, Mac enjoyed a 3-year hiatus because none of the old viruses were able to attack the new Operating System.  This ended in 2004 with the appearance of the “Renepo” worm and “Amphimix” both targeting OS-X systems.

2006 - The “Leap” virus infecting Mac OS X appeared.  This fact had no effect on Apple’s misleading advertising campaign that year claiming that Mac was immune to PC viruses.

2007 – The “BadBunny” worm was able to infect Mac, Linux and Windows computers.

2010 - The OSX/Pinhead Trojan was the first to allow hackers to gain remote control over iMac or MacBook to steal user passwords and data.

2011 - MacDefender scareware was the most successful scam to date targeted at Mac.  Apple management’s first reaction was to deny everything and refuse help to infected users.

2012 – Flashback was the first Mac virus to circumvent all OS-X protections and install itself with no Admin password or user interaction.

2015 saw an exponential increase in Mac-targeted malware including Lamadai, Appetite, Coin Thief, HackBack, LaoShu, and many more.

I realize it can raise strong emotions with some loyalists to mention “Mac” and “virus” in the same sentence, but facts are facts.  If you use a computer, Mac or PC, it needs antivirus software.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico.  The opinions expressed are his own.  He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.

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