One of the claims by loyal Apple fans is that the Apple desktop operating system is more secure than Microsoft Windows because they are affected by markedly less malware. This has more to do with the fact that virus-writers would rather spend their time creating malware for an OS that is much more widely installed and has many well-known security weaknesses and bugs to exploit, and less to do with any inherent security strengths in OS X.
Which ever side of the fence you fall on, Mac users have recently been falling prey to a new form of ransomware that is delivered via Apple’s Safari web browser. Affected users are displayed the usual threatening messages that purportedly come straight from the FBI, demonstrating “proof” that your Apple computer has been engaged in illegal activity. Users are given the opportunity to pay a “fine” which will supposedly allow them to regain control over their machine and remove the warning messages blocking their screen.
What this means for you:
If you are a Windows user, you’ve probably already seen this form of malware in action. The Apple variant is slightly less annoying than its Windows counterpart, relying heavily on “iFrames” to pop-up the warnings. Savvy Safari users can close these windows to escape the ransomware’s clutches temporarily (something that’s not possible on the Windows side), but should still reset their browser settings (FBI provides instructions here) to clear out any rogue alterations made, and then run a full anti-malware sweep to ensure they didn’t pick up anything else alongside of the ransomware scam.
As always, you should never heed instructions to pay a “fine” levied by some governmental institution via online method. Law enforcement agencies do not operate in that fashion. Regardless of the brouhaha ongoing with the NSA and the Prism surveillance, no government entity is going to handle illegal activity via automated fines, and especially not through dodgy online payment websites. Use your common sense. If you encounter this form of malware and are unable to fix it yourself, shut down your workstation and pick up the phone to call a professional.