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Mac users beware: Ransomware could be on your computer

Mac users beware: Ransomware could be on your computer
photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK

Many years ago, a major selling point of Apple's Mac computers was that they didn't get viruses or other malicious programs. For people fed up with Windows' frequent security flaws and millions of threats, Macs were a welcome change.

Of course, with more people using Macs, hackers started looking for weaknesses and found plenty over the past few years. Attacks on Mac still don't happen nearly as much as with Windows, but if you aren't careful you could still end up with malware as nasty as any you get on a Windows PC. And this weekend, some unfortunate Mac users got the nastiest threat of them all.

If you've been keeping up with tech news, you know that the biggest growing security concern is ransomware. This malware sneaks on to your computer and encrypts your files, including documents, priceless photos and more. Unless you pay the hackers behind the attack, you aren't ever going to be able to open your files again.

There are ways to protect yourself, but most people don't think about it until it's too late. Even major organizations have been hit, including a hospital that ended up paying the ransom. However, there were no recorded cases of ransomware on Macs until this weekend.

Last Friday, hackers cracked the site of a popular Mac program called Transmission, which is used for peer-to-peer file sharing. The hackers swapped out the new version 2.90 with a version containing ransomware called "KeRanger".

KeRanger is programmed to wait for three days and then activate, which means some unlucky Mac users are going to start losing access to their files today. The cost for unlocking your files is one Bitcoin, which is equivalent to $400.

Security researchers at Palo Alto Networks caught the hack and informed Apple and Transmission. Apple has released an update that keeps the infected version of Transmission from installing if you encounter it elsewhere online. However, it won't stop ransomware that's already installed from activating.

Transmission took down the infected version on Sunday and replaced it with Transmission 2.92. If you install version 2.92, it will overwrite the infected version and, according to Transmission, keep KeRanger from running if it hasn't yet.

If you did download KeRanger and it has already encrypted your files, you better have a recent backup of your files handy. Otherwise, you are out of luck, unless a security company manages to crack the encryption. However, that could take a long time.

This is why it's just as important to have security software installed on Macs as it is on Windows PCs. Of course, if you have multiple computer types in the house, messing with several security software brands is a hassle.

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Source: Reuters
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