Apple has delivered – or so it says – on its promise to provide a Flashback malware removal tool.
The new update is packaged in two flavours:
* Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8, documented in HT5243.
* Java for OS X Lion 2012-003, documented in HT5242.
Both updates claim that “this Java security update removes the most common variants of the Flashback malware. ”
The one for Lion goes a little further:
This update also configures the Java web plug-in to disable the automatic execution of Java applets. Users may re-enable automatic execution of Java applets using the Java Preferences application. If the Java web plug-in detects that no applets have been run for an extended period of time it will again disable Java applets.
The updates also include the latest Java version all over again, 1.6.0_31.
If you’re using Snow Leopard, disabling Java in your browser won’t happen automatically. It looks as though the Java applet autodisabler is Lion-only.
I’d love to tell you more about the Flashback remover supplied by Apple, but I’m afraid I don’t know how.
There’s no documentation about it; there’s no information about how to run it by hand in the future, or how it works, or what variants of the malware it finds; and – at least on my uninfected 10.6 computer – it didn’t give any visual indication that it had run at all. (Three words for Apple about security bulletins: promptness, clarity and openness.)
(Update. HT5247 has a bit more story about the removal tool. It’s documented to say nothing if it finds nothing. Thanks to François for pointing this out.)
Also, of course, it won’t protect you against reinfection, and it won’t protect you against any other Mac malware.
So there you have it. Apple’s Java distribution and the Flashback malware addressed in one go. Unless you have OS X Leopard (10.5) or earlier. If you do, you’re still out of luck – no patches for you.
PS. See how I resisted the urge to mention the free Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition, complete with detection, prevention and remediation of Flashback and heaps of other malware, at any point in the above article :-)