Mac users warned of spyware in app downloads

Mac users are being warned of spyware that’s hiding in a range of free apps.

According to security company Intego the spyware is downloaded through free screensavers and a video converter app, which can be downloaded from a range of sites.

This spyware, known as OSX/OpinionSpy, performs a number of malicious actions, from scanning files to recording user activity, as well as sending information about this activity to remote servers and opening a backdoor on infected Macs.

The company said in a blog that the spyware was installed by a number of applications and screen savers that are distributed on sites such as MacUpdate and Softpedia. It is also available on CNET-owned VersionTracker which it then reported on here. It said the spyware itself is not contained in these applications, but is downloaded during the installation process through a misleading text that users must accept explaining that a “market research” program is installed with them.

It said this shows the need for an up-to-date anti-malware program with a real-time scanner that can detect this malware when it is downloaded by the original application’s installer.

It’s unclear exactly what data is collected and sent to the remote server, but it could include personal information like usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers, the post said.

In some cases the infected computer will not work correctly and the user will need to force a reboot. In addition, deleting the original app or screensaver will not delete or interfere with the spyware, Intego said.

“While its distribution is limited, we warn Mac users to pay careful attention to which software they download and install,” the company said. “Given the type of data that it collects, the company behind this spyware can store detailed records of users, their habits, their contacts, their location, and much more.”