Flashback Trojan strikes Apple users on campus

The virus had infected more than half a million Mac computers as of April 6.

by Luke Miller


A malicious password-stealing program has hit Mac users on campus and globally.

The Flashback Trojan is malware that has affected nearly 600,000 Macs as of last week, according to security software company Symantec. The University of Minnesota’s many student Mac users are susceptible to the software.

Flashback exploited vulnerabilities in Java to infect numerous Apple computers and can load itself without user knowledge. Once installed, the malware records passwords and other personal data from websites users visit.

If a student computer were to become infected, the user should receive an email from the University’s Office of Information and Technology notifying them. Infected computers would not be allowed back on the University’s network until the Trojan was removed from the computer.

Trojans are malicious software that appear benevolent. Similar to the wooden horse in Greek mythology, Trojans present themselves as legitimate software and then harm a user’s computer once installed.

Flashback has infected computers across the country. About 56 percent of reported instances have been in the United States, according to antivirus company Dr. Web.

At the University of South Carolina, up to 80 computers — mostly belonging to students — were infected by Flashback, according to the Daily Gamecock, the school’s student newspaper.

Recently, Apple released an update to Java that will protect Macs. Without the software update, Mac users are still in danger of acquiring the Trojan.

The Office of Information and Technology for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences has a detailed explanation on their web site about the update and how to detect the Flashback.

There are several ways to check for a Flashback infection, including various websites and malware scanners. Security software company Kaspersky has also released a free tool that will remove the Trojan.

Since the initial emergence of Flashback, the number of reported instances has decreased. According to Wednesday data from Symantec, infections have dropped to 270,000 from 600,000 just days ago.

Instances of Mac viruses, rootkits, Trojans and other malware on the University campus have increased over the last several months, the Minnesota Daily previously reported.