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Apple posts MacDefender removal info, promises fix

Apple has finally acknowledged the MacDefender malware with instructions to remove the software, along with promising that a future version of the Mac OS will protect against it.

A shot of the MacDefender software, which Apple will soon remove automatically.
A shot of the MacDefender software, which Apple will soon remove automatically. Intego

Apple this afternoon posted instructions for removing MacDefender, the rogue antivirus software that targets Mac OS X users. Additionally the company has said it will be updating its Mac OS to automatically find and remove the software.

Apple support article HT4650, titled "how to avoid or remove Mac Defender malware" includes a description of the software, as well as steps to remove it. CNET has learned that those who come to Apple for support on the issue will be directed toward the article until the fix is delivered, which Apple says should arrive "in the coming days."

News of MacDefender, which is also known as Mac Security and Mac Protector, hit earlier this month. The fake antivirus program is designed to trick users into thinking their machine has various malware infections, which it can remove if you pay up with a credit card.

As for how widespread the issue has become, Apple has not said. A post earlier today by ZDnet's Ed Bott estimated it to be anywhere between 60,000 and 125,000 customers, based on information gathered from a source at one of Apple's support centers. That post also contained a purported memo sent to Apple call centers, wherein they were told to point affected users toward a support document explaining what malware is and to install antivirus software.

The question about whether it's Apple's responsibility to aid users with the removal of malware as part of its AppleCase support service is still of interest for any future malware issues. From Apple's own description of what is offered in terms of "software support," there are things like "using the Mac OS X operating system," "quick how-to questions about iLife and iWork," and "connecting to printers and AirPort networks." That is to say, there's nothing about removing software programs, even if that could technically be considered general use of the Mac OS. Nonetheless, it remains in the company's interest to secure its OS from software that can threaten customer information, as this one was targeting.