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Apple finally responds to Mac Defender malware

Apple has finally responded to a fake anti-virus exploit targeting Mac users more than three weeks after it was first reported.

The Malware - which has been falsely reporting infected Macs since May 3rd - is most commonly known as MacDefender after the fake AV software it tries to install, but also has variants called MacProtector and MacSecurity.

Although the exploit doesn't actually damage files or infect the OS in any way, it reports infections and asks users for credit card details to purchase software to remove non-existent viruses. Those credit card details can then be used for fraudulent purposes.

Apple has posted a security advisory which gives full details on how to avoid installing the malware, and how to manually remove it if you have already done so.

The method involves using the computer's Activity Monitor utility to close down processes being carried out by the malware and manually removing the offending application files by dragging them into the Trash.

The company says it will issue an update to OS X in 'the coming days' which will automatically find and remove the MacDefender malware and its known variants.

It might be cold comfort for anyone who has had their credit card details stolen.

Microsoft recently reported that one in every 14 applications downloaded by Windows users is infected in some way and most Mac users think the processor overhead and irritation of anti Virus programmes, particularly on laptops where battery life is paramount, outweighs the risk of infection by malicious code.

As the Mac platform gains market share, not least because of the halo effect caused by the popularity of the company's popular gadgets like the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Mac OS X will increasingly become the target of criminal hackers.

Although it's inevitable that there will come a time when AV software becomes essential on the platform, most inhabitants of Apple's walled garden don't believe that time has arrived quite yet.