A file called “latestpics.tgz” was recently posted on a Mac rumors web site (www.macrumors.com), claiming to be pictures of “Mac OS X Leopard.” Mac Rumors has, for some unknown reason, headlined their article “The First Mac OS X Virus?” – although they do seem to have recently tacked on the parenthetical “A New OS X Trojan” to the headine and added this statement to the end of their article: “It appears that there is some debate about the classification of this application, and as it does require user activation, it appears to fall into the Trojan classification, rather than self-propogating through any particular vulnerability in OS X.”

Ambrosia Software’s Andrew Welch explains:
You cannot be infected by this unless you do all of the following:
1) Are somehow sent (via email, iChat, etc.) or download the “latestpics.tgz” file
2) Double-click on the file to decompress it
3) Double-click on the resulting file to “open” it
…and then for most users, you must also enter your Admin password.

It does not exploit any security holes; rather it uses “social engineering” to get the user to launch it on their system. It requires the admin password if you’re not running as an admin user. It doesn’t actually do anything other than attempt to propagate itself via iChat. It has a bug in the code that prevents it from working as intended, which has the side-effect of preventing infected applications from launching. It’s not particularly sophisticated.

So, for those inclined to hyperbole and panic: relax. You cannot simply “catch” a trojan as you would a “virus.” There are zero Mac OS X viruses. This is not the first Mac OS X trojan and it won’t be the last. Even if someone does send you the “latestpics.tgz” file, you cannot be infected unless you unarchive the file, then open it, and authorize it to run. Just trash it. As usual, do not install and run applications from untrusted sources. Do not run Mac OS X as “root.” Same stuff as usual.

More information about this trojan in Welch’s full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’ll be interesting to see which media organizations, if any, pick up on this and run the incorrect story of “the first Mac OS X virus.”

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Related MacDailyNews article:
Incorrect reports of ‘Mac OS X virus’ begin to circulate – February 16, 2006
Apple: ‘Opener’ is not a virus, Trojan horse, or worm – November 02, 2004