After a series of Java security updates, Apple quietly releases an (invisible) removal tool
In a perfect world, there would be no computer viruses, worms or trojan horses -- and for most of Mac OS X's first 10 years it was blessedly malware-free.
In the world as we would like it, Apple (AAPL) would have used that decade-long grace period to prepare for the day when its flagship operating system got hit -- as it inevitably would -- with a major outbreak.
In the world as it actually is, a piece of malware known as the Flashback trojan -- a patch for which has been available since February -- caught Apple with its pants down. The rogue code had already infected roughly 1% of the Macs in use -- an estimated 600,000 machines -- before Apple did anything about it.
By then, the company was scrambling -- putting on the equivalent of belts and suspenders. It issued not one or two but three Java security updates between April 3 and April 12, and on Friday it gave users something that sounded like just what they had been waiting for: An official tool -- one from Apple, not one they heard about on Facebook -- that would safely and definitively tell them if their Mac was infected.
What Apple didn't do was tell users that the tool existed. Not with a Software Update, not with a press release (see update below). It isn't listed on the Mac App Store and it doesn't show up in a search of the Apple website. And if you do somehow find and install it on your computer, it will disappear into the underlying code, making its presence known only if Flashback shows up.
If Apple is going to operate in the malware-ridden Internet as it is -- as Microsoft (MSFT) has for years -- a little transparency would be appreciated. Starting with an easy way to find the tool that will locate and eradicate infections as they appear.
For the record, you can download the Flashback Malware Removal Tool here.
UPDATE: A reader reports that the tool did show up as a Software Update on one of his Macs. He may not have installed Java on that particular Mac. The stand-alone utility, according to Apple's documentation, was designed for OS X Lion users without Java. CNET's Topher Kessler suggests that the tool was made to address "earlier variants of the malware that these users might have encountered."
Fortune's curated selection of tech stories from the last 24 hours. Sign up to get the round-up delivered to you each and every day.
"We're starting to do some things differently."
-- Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller (Daring Fireball)
* Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled a new version of the Mac operating system, named "Mountain Lion," with features currently found in the company's mobile software. (The Wall Street Journal)
* Japanese authorities arrested MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Feb 16, 2012 11:49 AM ET
Shots were fired in both directions as partisans previewed Microsoft's next tablet OS
A war of words -- blogged, tweeted and syndicated -- broke out at Microsoft's (MSFT) annual developers conference Tuesday when the company distributed Samsung tablets loaded with beta copies of Windows 8, its answer to Apple's (AAPL) OS X and iOS, rolled into one.
Paul Thurrott, the news editor of Windows IT Pro and host of the Windows Weekly podcast, MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 14, 2011 8:27 AM ET
And other stories we missed while we were busy chasing down Apple analysts
It was an unusually busy week for Apple (AAPL), which released two new computers and a major overhaul of its flagship operating system the day after it reported earning that have more than doubled in a year. We covered the earnings and the subsequent pop in the stock price. Here are some of the stories we missed:
A pride MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 22, 2011 10:57 AM ET
Don't buy Apple's new operating system until you find a new home for your financial data
Apple doesn't tell you this, so we will.
With OS X Lion, the new operating system for Macs released Wednesday, Apple (AAPL) has just cut a significant tie to its past -- namely legacy programs like Intuit's (INTU) Quicken that were written for the old PowerPC.
As John Siracusa points out in his definitive and thoroughly entertaining MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 20, 2011 11:34 AM ET
With OS X Lion, a new MacBook Air and a new MacBook mini
In Wednesday's apple.com splash screen, Apple (AAPL) is highlighting "the new, faster MacBook Air."Philip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 20, 2011 8:50 AM ET
Having let the Mac version languish, Intuit prepares for the death of its flagship product
My first three entries in Quicken, dated Sept. 8, 1997, were a $17.31 payment to Bell Atlantic (remember them?) marked "Philip's modem" (remember those?) and $15 for my annual subscription to the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link in Sausalito, Calif., which for many years was my only conduit onto the Internet.
I've been a loyal user of Intuit's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 8, 2011 12:25 PM ET
Three major products, hundreds of new features, thousands of new programmer interfaces
"We're going to talk about three things today," Steve Jobs said at the beginning his keynote speech Monday. Then he and his colleagues proceeded to talk about hundreds of things -- so many that days later the reporters who watched the two-hour presentation and the developers who attended the week-long conference that followed were still trying to wrap their MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 10, 2011 5:30 AM ET
A veteran designer predicts that iCloud will be to MobileMe what the iPhone was to Apple's Newton
Kevin Fox spent three years in the 1990s writing software for the Newton, Apple's (AAPL) first, fumbling attempt to do what the iPhone finally achieved. He went on to design Yahoo's (YHOO) Chat and Messenger services and spent five years at Google (GOOG) where as the head of its user experience and research group MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 4, 2011 6:33 AM ET
Steve Ballmer's slavish devotion to Windows and Office has made them cash cows, but some say revenues have come at the expense of innovation.
By Gary Rivlin, contributor
FORTUNE -- What's the matter with Microsoft? After spending weeks tracking down and talking with a long list of former Microsoft (MSFT) employees, many of them veterans with fifteen or more years with the company, the question is how long do you have to MOREMar 31, 2011 10:47 AM ET
|Much faster Wi-Fi coming soon|
|Dow sinks 200 points after Fed hints at stimulus easing|
|Chinese billionaire buys 007's yacht maker|
|J.D. Power ranks GM tops in quality for first time|
|Men are disappearing from the workforce|