The company said that a small number of video iPods made after Sept. 12 included the RavMonE virus. It said it has seen fewer than 25 reports of the problem, which it said does not affect other models of the media player, nor does it affect Macs.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company apologized on its Web site for the problem, but also used the opportunity to jab at Microsoft, its operating system rival.
"As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it," Apple said on its site.Apple Vice President Greg Joswiak told CNET News.com that the virus was discovered last week and said the company has been working around the clock since then to discover the root cause of the problem. Joswiak said it was traced to a particular Windows machine in the manufacturing lines of a contract manufacturer that builds the iPods for Apple. The company declined to name the maker.
"It's more important to say we now have processes in place to make sure this won't happen again," Joswiak said. "Very few units actually went through that particular station, fortunately."
The company said that computers using a current antivirus software and with default settings should detect and remove RavMonE, as it is an identified virus. It is urging iPod users without such protection to install antivirus software.
Apple said that the video iPods now being made are virus-free. Itof iPods last month.
Antivirus company McAfee listed the iPod threat as a low risk, but gave it the rating of "low/profiled," which the company said applies to viruses that "appear to be low risk, but warrant additional monitoring because they have attracted media interest."
Joswiak said the virus does not affect Macs or the iPod itself. As for Windows machines, Joswiak said the virus "does not cause data damage but can lower the security of the computer" and said it should be removed. Apple points to various antivirus firms' Web sites, including McAfee, Microsoft and Symantec, as places consumers can get antivirus software if they don't already have it.
Apple said that there was no intentional placement of the virus on the iPods. "You can rest assured of that," he said.
CNET News.com's Joris Evers contributed to this report.