The Trojans Are Coming… for Apple

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In order to lure away wide-eyed PC users, one of Apple’s more popular breadcrumbs has been Mac OS X’s ability to resist pesky malware, or so Justin Long’s boyish gaze would have you believe. But as aluminum-clad unibodies become more common than not, how will Apple respond when the viruses inevitably come?

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The folks over at SophosLabs – a Canada-based internet security company – are reporting that they have gotten their hands on a new Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that, though still under development, targets Mac OS X and could be indicative of more to come. And even though the virus is still in its infant stages, it’s apparently capable of a fair share of nasty functions, including things like randomized shutdowns, endless pop-ups, and fake “Administrator Password” prompts to phish for your data. Find the complete list of annoyances here.

While Apple’s website still touts, “Mac OS X doesn’t get PC viruses… [and] its built-in defenses help keep you safe from other malware without the hassle of constant alerts and sweeps,” it’ll be interesting to see how they adjust to the growing number of red dots hungry hackers will have targeting their forehead as they grow in market share. According to a Gartner report from January, Apple saw a 23.7 increase in shipments through the fourth quarter of 2010, well ahead of the 6.6 percent decline facing the rest of the industry.

This will eventually raise a few questions: First, how will Apple position itself strategically once its veil of immunity gets lifted? (And you can bet it will.) Other than OS X’s design, which is a question of taste, what other functionality over Windows does Apple have to rally behind?

Secondly, if there is a boom in third-party antivirus software for Mac OS X, will it hurt Apple’s chances of retaining their notoriously loyal customer base? Annoying anti-virus updates like Norton’s were one of the primary reasons many users made the switch in the first place.

The Trojans are coming and, unfortunately for Apple, that’s not a good thing.

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