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CHAPTER 8: Malware Security: Combating Viruses, Worm, and Root Kits
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e-mail program and infect files sent to friends, colleagues, clients, and family. For example, many viruses are written to specifically attack Microsoft Office for Windows. When an infected file is moved from a Mac to Windows, because of the lack of some security features of Office in the Mac environment, the Mac user may carry the virus within the infected file and not even know it until it is passed to a Windows machine. Most commonly, the virus may infect Microsoft Word s normal.dot file, on which all new Word documents are based. This will cause all new Word files created by the infected computer to be infected with the macro virus. The virus may not affect the computer in any other way. This is the case with the most common virus seen on the Mac for almost a decade, the W97M virus, which is a strain of the original Melissa virus from 1997. TIP: If your machine detects the W97M virus, immediately delete the normal.dot file to keep future new documents from becoming infected when created. There are ways to prevent infecting your Mac with a macro virus. For example, if you open a Word document with macros enabled, you will usually receive an alert letting you know the file has macros. If you receive a macro alert, take a minute to check that document out a little more thoroughly. In fact, check it for viruses (you do have antivirus software running on your Mac, right ) Word will even allow you to examine the macro to see what it does before opening the document. This will help you keep macros that can damage Word and Excel on your computer at bay and keep your office installation at an optimal performance level.
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Script Malware Attacks
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For now, Automator is probably the most underutilized and underappreciated gem of the Mac OS X operating system. It is Mac OS X s personal robot, designed to eliminate some of the repetitive tasks that we all must perform while working on our Macs by essentially automating them. It is a major time-saver. It can also be a huge malware headache. Automator relies heavily on workflows that are built with scripts, which are automatic functions that tell your computer what to do. You can probably deduce that viruses work the same way: they are scripts that tell your computer what to do. For this reason, Automator workflows are huge security risks and should be treated with caution. E-mailing workflows as attachments should be attempted only with extreme caution, simply because the potential for disastrous results from a user accidentally breaking the operating system by opening a poorly made Automator script is way too high. It is important to be conscious of what Automator workflows can do. Before running a workflow, understand exactly what it will do to the system. Only open Automator workflows built by people you trust. The same is true for AppleScript and shell scripts (which can actually be even more dangerous, although they d take a little more skill to perfect). Like Visual Basic in Microsoft Office, these two methods of scripting offer powerful functions that can be used to perform a variety of actions such as erasing drives, deleting files, and corrupting operating systems dangerous operations that malware is famous for performing. With
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CHAPTER 8: Malware Security: Combating Viruses, Worm, and Root Kits
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just one dangerous line of code, shell scripts can erase your hard drive while the operating system is running. Or an AppleScript might run a complicated find operation across the entire hard drive, deleting all files of a certain type. There is no undo command in the Terminal (which is where shell scripts originate), and because Terminal commands don t put files in the trash, when they re deleted, they re gone, headed for disk recovery.
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