Apple has now released a tool that removes the Flashback Trojan from infected Mac computers, according to a security update posted to Apple.com on Thursday. The malicious software, which some have casually referred to as the “Mac virus,” (even though, yes, we know, a Trojan is not a virus), had previously infected some 650,000 Mac laptops, making it one of the largest infections the Mac install base has ever seen.
The company had announced earlier in the week that it would deploy software to detect and remove the Flashback malware from users’ computers, which first began appearing on Mac computers back in September. It wasn’t until recently that the Trojan, which created a botnet consisting of infected Macs, returned with a vengeance. By early April, security firms were reporting that as many as half a million Macs could be infected and the number was growing still.
To address the malware, which was exploiting a security flaw in Java in order to install itself on Macs, Apple had been releasing Java updates through its Software Update feature. Apple had also been advising users to disable Java in their browser to better protect themselves from attack.
With the new removal tool, Apple is now able to disable Java applets by default (on some versions of OS X) and can now remove the Flashback Trojan from infected Macs.
Explains Apple on its website:
This Java security update removes the most common variants of the Flashback malware.
This update also configures the Java web plug-in to disable the automatic execution of Java applets. Users may re-enable automatic execution of Java applets using the Java Preferences application. If the Java web plug-in detects that no applets have been run for an extended period of time it will again disable Java applets.
Java for OS X Lion 2012-003 delivers Java SE 6 version 1.6.0_31 and supersedes all previous versions of Java for OS X Lion.
This update is recommended for all Mac users with Java installed.
As you may notice, the above tool is only available for OS X Lion. Snow Leopard users are pointed to another removal tool here, but this one is unable to automatically disable Java in the browser. That will still need to be done manually.
Both updates, however, ship with the patched version of Java which was released via the Java security updates that went out earlier in the week.
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There’s no shortage of Google+ in the air these days. Overeager pundits and soothsayers are hoping to be among the most visible voices on the net saying which service or company it’s going to topple, why it’s going to fail or succeed, and why it should or shouldn’t be more like this or that.
It all seems awfully premature, considering Google+ is just getting started, and I don’t mean in user numbers. We’re all familiar enough with Google products to know that practically everything they’ve ever done was launched early and incomplete, whether it went on to succeed (Gmail, Android) or not (Orkut, Wave). Most if not all of the big talk surrounding the network right now will have to be adjusted in a month, six months, and a year from now. It’s fun to speculate, but Google is always playing the long game. Google+ isn’t just half-baked; they haven’t even put it in the oven yet. Let’s not judge the cookie by the dough.
Is it an alternative to Facebook? Yes. To Twitter? Yes. To Yammer, to productivity suites, to Skype, to Office, to Microsoft, to Apple? If it isn’t now, you better believe it will be. Google is like a kind of Troll-Borg. You think they put out something that stands on its own, a “Facebook killer” or an “iPhone killer” — but it’s only later that you realize that the separation from the mothership was just an illusion, and the entire bulk of Google was right there the whole time. But it’s too late — you’ve been assimilated. Problem?
I wrote a long time ago about how all these little projects of theirs would be connected and unified, the way the Romans unified their empire by joining all the little roads to their big roads. I thought it was going to happen with Chrome OS, but a tumultuous mobile market meant a late start there; Google+ is more of a clear step in that direction now.
The thing is, as I wrote then, you can’t take the measure of Rome by looking at just one of their roads. And you can’t take the measure of Google+ right now, because it’s just the first mile. The best way to debut the connecting tissue of their web empire wasn’t to make an OS — the market wasn’t ready for that. So after an OS, what is the most popular and accessible platform? Mobile (check) then Facebook, around which there’s growing enmity, distrust, and boredom. Iron: hot. Pile all the Google services into that big wooden horse and say “here’s a nice, secure alternative for sharing things with your friends.” Don’t mention the fact that lurking inside it (waiting for a reveal a few months down the line) are a hundred ways of sucking users away from their existing services — in ways that neither Facebook, Microsoft, nor Apple can. Is it about social? Yeah, because that was the face Google needed to wear this week. Beware of geeks bearing gifts.
I suppose I’ve done what I cautioned everyone else not to do: speculate on a product that’s barely even there. 10 million users is great, but the meteoric rise and fall of countless web services can bear witness to the fact that the first month is probably the least important in a service’s lifetime. Around Thanksgiving we might be talking about how silly we all sounded talking up the ghost town that is Google+. Or maybe some of us will be calling an emergency meeting in the board room because Google just ate our business model alive.
Whatever the case, I feel confident in saying that Google’s long haul plan for + is subtle, sinister, and far-reaching. Not evil, exactly, but cunning and ruthless. Sure, right now it seems like it’s aimed at Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter, but when the stakes are this high, you better believe they’ve got guns pointed at everyone in the room. Comparing features with its immediate competitors misses the point, and at any rate the landscape shifts so frequently that such comparisons are fleeting to begin with. Think big, and think sneaky. Eric Schmidt seems like a nice guy, but I sure would rather have Zuckerberg or Ballmer for an enemy. I guess we can continue to talk about it, but personally, I’m getting some popcorn first.
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Something struck me about Apple’s handling of the iPad launch this week. Instead of countless nerds spouting off in early reviews, only a few major tech press folks got early samples. Instead, the iPad showed up in a show the missus and I watch, Modern Family.*
That’s right: instead of an overfed talking-head tech reporter pawing over the iPad on morning TV, the iPad got prime-time coverage in a sitcom. Think about the last computer company to get that kind of screen time. Only Microsoft, in their abysmal product placement in Family Guy comes to mind. But in Modern Family the iPad was a major plot point. While I’m sure Apple paid a pretty penny for the exposure, I don’t doubt the folks at ABC would have put the product in for free had Apple asked. But this shows a very important turning point in Apple marketing. The company, in short, sees the iPad as a mass market phenomenon without peer and is treating it as such. And the iPad, in turn, will become the tool that pushes Apple even deeper into the home.
The iPhone convinced millions of people that Apple makes nice phones. The iPad, in turn, will convince millions of people that Apple makes nice computers. Whereas the “halo effect” that the iPhone was supposed to have on the rest of Apple’s wares – laptops and iMacs and the line – isn’t quite apparent except in Apple’s impressive revenues, I suspect the iPad is going to push people over the hump. While you can get away with booting up craggy old Windows on your craggy old Dell while mucking about in iPhone’s sylvan glades, you’re less likely to appreciate your old laptop when its sitting alongside a device that looks like a cross between a robotic communion wafer and something out of Star Trek.
To describe this metaphorically, (and this is a horrible metaphor) think of the iPhone as a bicycle made by BMW. No one is going to upgrade to a Ford car if you’re only used to their bikes but if Ford starts to sell, say, something like an inexpensive Smart car or nice motorcycle with a little more power and all that BMW “magic,” there’s a good chance they’ll buy a Z-Series next time they’re looking at cars.
So the reason you’re not seeing geeks like us with iPads this week is simple – the iPad isn’t for geeks like us. While time will tell if this is a correct assessment, I’m almost betting on it.
UPDATE – I found some things to add. First, Apple has 91% market share in “premium PCs,” which is huge. But in lower-end PCs Windows still rules. Now what happens when a sub-$700 Apple ends up in millions of homes. Much more market share and a real halo effect across the market.
*It’s seriously a really good program. Christopher LLoyd (Frasier and Wings) produces it. I thought it would be dumb at first too. Try it.
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