Social Networking Virus Infects Macs, PCs

Dennis Faas's picture

A well-known Windows virus is spreading to Apple PCs as well. The virus is known as trojan.osx.boonana.a, though it appears to be the same as the so-called Koobface virus which first affected Windows PCs. In both cases the virus spreads through social networking sites, most notably Facebook.

The virus gets on to computers through bogus messages and one of the most common is some variation on "Is this you in this video?" Clicking the link on this message then runs a Java applet that attempts to download and install the virus. (Source:

Once installed, trojan.osx.boonana.a (also known as "Boonana") sends personal data to online servers controlled by the virus creators. The virus also sends unsolicited bulk emails (spam) to people listed in the user's address book in an attempt to propagate further.

Mac Threat Remains Questionable

There's some debate about how serious the issue is for Macs. Some analysts have noted that users will be shown a security alert when the Java applet attempts to run and can deny access at this point. That's even prompted suggestions users disable Java in their browser and only turn it back on if and when they truly need it. (Source:

Others have countered that if users don't spot something is amiss here, the situation becomes more serious than usual. In most cases programs can't be installed on a Mac without the user typing in a password in order to heighten access privileges, but the Boonana virus has reportedly found a way to get around this barrier. (Source:

Mac Viruses May Represent New Trend

It's rare to see a Windows virus being redesigned for Macs, and it reawakens the debate about why PCs are threatened by more viruses than Macs. Traditionally, there have been two points of view: one is that Windows is inherently less secure than the Mac's OS X system, while the other is that virus creators put more effort into targeting Windows machines because more people own them.

As we reported this week, the number of known security vulnerabilities in OS X has risen five-fold in the past year. While a new edition of the system was released late last year, it seems unlikely that it contained so many more bugs than its predecessors.

Instead, the likely answer is that hackers are indeed turning more of their attention to Macs than in the past and thus uncovering more previously undiscovered flaws.

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