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#815: How Does Flashback Get In?, G4 Blues, iPhone Repair

 
     
 

Hey everyone!

Looks like spring is finally coming back. After a short hiatus, the warm, sunny days are returning, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s here in New Hampshire. In addition to about a dozen motorcycles and a handful of bicycles, this morning on my ride to work I saw several people towing boats. Time to drag out the summer toys! In preparation for the hot days to come, I bought a small wading pool so I can soak in my back yard while writing blog articles.

The past two weeks have been abuzz with news about two new Trojans that are specifically aimed at Macs. Flashback pretends to be an update to Adobe Flash Player. Sabpab uses a known exploit in Microsoft Word documents to infect your Mac with a backdoor. Sadly, it looks like the walls on our little corner of Utopia are coming down, and we’re all going to have to be a bit smarter when we surf.

This week, we feature an article about why these new Trojans are able to infect your Mac, as well as some information on new life for your old G4, and an editorial about the latest Flashback hype. A little something to read when you get tired of being outside.

Thanks for reading!

Glenn
glenn@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  How Does Flashback Get In?  
   
 

Last year, we started seeing new threats in the wild that targeted the Mac. As recent as last week, new publicity about the Flashback Trojan initiated a new wave of concern. It was reported widely in online media that a large number of machines (estimated at around 600,000) have been infected.

Apple, knowing the importance of resolving the Flashback issue, has offered two Java updates in the past week, plus a Flashback Removal Tool. (More on that here.)

Now there is a new threat for the Mac. The new Mac Trojan is simply referred to by Kaspersky as “Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a” or “Sophos as OSX/Sabpab-A.” Like Flashback, it is primarily an exploit of the Java operating environment. Unlike Flashback, the new Trojan requires no user interaction to install. The Trojan uses a documented exploit in Java, Exp/20120507-A6, to execute arbitrary code for the sake of command and control of the Mac, using the infected machine in a bot-net and sending information back to the command and control center.

What is the Java exploit? In Java, the AtomicReferenceArray is a way of allowing many different files in a database of sorts to be accessed by many functions and update in real time. It is used to protect the files instead of locking the whole database when one client is modifying information in the database. The exploit is not built on what this does but where.

In most operating systems and browsers, the Java functions are sandboxed, running in an environment with no access to the main operating system. The AtomicReferenceArray is not sandboxed adequately and has system level access on the machine. Due to this level of access outside of the sandbox environment, the malicious code can gain access to the system and thus the ability to write data to the system and create its own directories (the Malware).

As these threats have reared their head on the Apple platform, who’s ultimately responsible for the security of the operating environment in the future? Apple has slowly been removing Java from newer versions of the OS. In October of 2010, Apple released a note to the developer community discussing how they had deprecated the version used and that a Java environment may not be supplied with the OS in the future (true, Lion does not come with Java, but can be installed if necessary).

As Java is phased out, it will become less and less of a likely vector for infections of Trojans and malware on the Mac, but for now, it is still part of many users’ systems.

 
   
     
  G4 Blues  
   
 

I get a lot of customers who are still using functioning iBook G4s. These are awesome laptops and it’s great to see an Apple product that can last and function for well over seven years!

I am often asked how to speed up the machine. There are a few things you can do: First, you will want to make sure that the RAM is maxed out. Early models could run 1.25GB of RAM, while later units support 1.5GB. If you bring your iBook into the store, this is something that we can look up for you. Upgrading the RAM can make a huge difference with everyday applications such as web browsing and word processing.

If you are running OS X 10.4 (Tiger), you may run into problems with websites that no longer support your version of Safari, and you’re not able to download a newer version without upgrading to 10.5, Leopard. There is a special build of Firefox called TenFourFox that is built for the G4 processor. Using this web browser will allow you to use modern websites, and will make surfing the web a bit faster due to Firefox’s native JavaScript acceleration. TenFourFox supports HTML5 and CSS 3, and will also automatically block Flash, which tends to slow down the G4 when web surfing.

I would also recommend a clean install of the operating system. If this has never been done, there there could be applications and data that are taking up space and slowing down the machine. The earliest model of the iBook G4 (from 2003) supports up to 10.4, while models that came out after 2004 can be upgraded to OS X 10.5 (10.6 Snow Leopard requires an Intel-based processor, and will not run on an iBook).

With a few of these steps, you should be able to get that G4 running a little faster. If not, it might just be time to upgrade!

 
   
     
  My Two Cents About the Flashback Trojan  
   
 

So what’s the deal with this new Trojan infecting upwards of 600,000 Mac systems? Is this some new super virus with its sights set on Steve Jobs’ legacy? Are Mac computers now susceptible to viruses? Everyone seems to be up in arms about this incident when I really feel like it isn’t that big of a deal. I’m sure I will get flack for that last line, but let me explain what I mean by that.

Yes, of course an infection of 600,000 systems when you only have 9% of the computer market share is big. If an equivalent attack was laid upon the Windows world, it would equate to nearly 8 million infected systems. So, yes, it is big, but it is partly due to Apple and their clever marketing tactics.

I will be the first to admit I loved those “I’m a PC and I’m a Mac” commercials but when it comes down to it, Mac users—and more specifically the ones that aren’t well versed with how computers work—have been spoon fed this notion that Macs are impervious to infection. This is a 100% untrue statement. There is no way of making a computer completely un-infectable, unless of course your computer is made of beads and sticks (aka an abacus).

With that said, awareness is the first and most economical method of infection prevention. Simply being in the know can help to fend off those pesky intruders. The next would be to own a Mac. Now I know I just finished ranting how Macs are vulnerable, but the truth is that these days individuals that make malicious software are doing so for profit not for fame. At the end of the day, it is a job to them and they’ve got bills to pay just like we do, so it stands to reason that going after the Windows world will yield a greater return.

Also, while Macs are not infection-proof, they are much harder to get in and infect. Since Macs don’t share a common root access like Windows systems and there isn’t a BIOs to access to cause serious harm to your machine there is less of a concern for complete destruction of your computer. Lastly, you can help to prevent infection by using anti-virus software. There are many manufacturers—some free and others subscription-based.

Here are some favorites among fellow Mac users: ClamXav, ESET, and Sophos.

In the end I feel like this is a lot of hype. Mac users have been led to believe they were impervious to viruses and infection so when their perfect world is shattered the media jumps all over it. When all the dust has settled at the end of the day this is a relatively easy bug to deal with!

 
   
     
  Broken iPhone? We Can Fix It.  
   
 

Small Dog Electronics was recently authorized by Apple to perform Out of Warranty (OOW) iPhone repair. Since it’s fully authorized by Apple, it means we’ll be using genuine Apple parts, and we can fix iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S units for AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

It’s currently only available in our S. Burlington location, and our service time is very quick. If you’re local to the VT/NH (and surrounding) area, stop in and visit the Service counter for more information and turnaround times.

We anticipate that we’ll be growing this program as well, so stay tuned for updates.

Call us toll-free at 888.317.5805 or email support@smalldog.com.

 
   
     
  Adobe CS5.5 > CS6  
   
 

Purchase a Creative Suite 5.5 full license or upgrade between March 26th and May 6th, 2012 and receive an upgrade to CS6 at no additional cost.

When you register your version of CS5.5, the license for CS6 will be provided to you when available.

Read more here!

 
   
     
  TT SPECIAL: MacBook Pro 13" with LaCie 500GB Drive & Diamond Protection  
   
 

MacBook Pro 13in w/ Rugged Mini Disk and Diamond Protection

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Protect Yourself!

Grab a MacBook Pro with external drive to start using Time Machine and with Mack Diamond Service Protection, you’ll be protected from any mistake you might make!

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  TT SPECIAL: Original iPads...Get Your iPads...  
   
 

You may know that we currently offer a Trade-In Program for both Macs and mobile devices (iPods and iPads), and right now, we want to highlight some great deals that we have on the original iPad. (“iPads. So hot right now.” -Derek Zoolander)

You’ll have to call or come in to one of our stores to take advantage, but you can see all models in stock here. We currently have stock starting at just $259.99 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model! While supplies last.