Daniel Eran Dilger in San Francisco
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Fox News reports new Mac virus that is neither Mac nor viral nor new

Foxvirus

Daniel Eran Dilger
A report published by Fox News says that “online criminals are apparently so impressed with its scorching sales they are sending Macintosh computers an attack typically aimed at” Windows PCs. The story then falls apart in series of inept contradictions.
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Fox published the story under a headlined expertly designed to ‘electrify the base’ by using both fear and sex: “Apple Macintoshes Targeted by Porn-Based Computer Virus.”

FOXNews.com – Apple Macintoshes Targeted by Porn-Based Computer Virus

A porn-based virus?
Reality only becomes apparent in the story’s ninth paragraph, which notes “the attack does not target a vulnerability in the Macintosh operating system,” and then proceeds to describe the “virus” as a trojan that users have to manually download and install as an authenticated administrator.

“Once the user authorizes the transaction,” the report warns, “the fraudsters can redirect his future browsing to fraudulent Web sites and possibly to steal his information or passwords or simply send ads for other pornographic Web sites and rake in advertising dollars.”

Pity the poor porn browsers who are submitted to porn and exposure to ads on the web pages they browse, which might inevitably benefit the porn publishers! How insidious and tragic.

The report then adds, “researchers said the Trojan used in the attack is a rejiggered version of one that’s been around for a couple years and requires that victims fall for a social engineering trick to work.”

New and different?
Bizarrely, the story then suggests that this fake video player trojan, just described as being a years-old ploy, is now hot news at least in the minds of companies seeking to sell anti-virus software to Mac users.

“Intego, which makes Macintosh antivirus software and discovered the scheme this week, said it underscores the mounting threats to Mac users as the machines grow in popularity,” the report said.

It then cites Intego spokesman Peter James as claiming, “this is the first really malicious criminal malware [for Macs]. We’ve seen some proof-of-concept malware, we’ve seen some worms, but this is different.”

It’s virtually impossible to find any statement in the article that is not contradicted within the next paragraph or two. However, mission accomplished: the story’s headline establishes, for readers who don’t really read, that Macs are being targeted by computer viruses, and suggests a need for installing a solution to this threat.

A faith-based approach to science news
Since that’s what many people want to believe, and what unscrupulous fear mongers selling Mac anti-virus software want the public to believe, there is now additional “data” for supporting such a faith-based conclusion, in the form of a false headline. Never mind that the story itself is contradictory and based entirely upon reports from biased sources who profit from creating a climate of fear.

The report also fails to mention how anti-virus software would protect users, even the “online porn-hunters [who] are the intended victim of the latest ploy,” from falling victim to a trojan. Does it block them from downloading every bit of software they try to install with warnings that it might be dangerous, as Mac OS X already does?

How much background processing power does the anti-virus software rob from the user in order to maintain vigilant outlook for the half dozen malware pranks in existence? Is that a good trade off? Fox doesn’t say. The article is so fraught with bad reporting that it’s hard to determine if this is some nefarious plot to serve misinformation to support the currently useless Mac anti-virus industry, or simply another example of ignorant incompetence.

Wrong to be Right.
Fox specializes in both. Sometimes, it fails to identify the country it drummed up support to invade. Note to Fox editors: Iraq is not Egypt. No wonder America can’t read a map.

Rcube

Other times, it appears that Fox really is intending to flat out lie, as when it identifies one disgraced Republican after another as a Democrat: Mark Foley, “wide stance” Larry Craig, former Illinois Governor George Ryan, and “gone missing” Mark Sanford.

Foley D

Sanford D

18 comments

1 Netudo { 07.30.09 at 6:59 pm }

Porn base virus symptoms: Makes you horny.
Treatment: Cold shower.

2 qka { 07.30.09 at 7:48 pm }

Fox is also the home of the traitor Bill O’Reilly.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/200907220053

3 walter { 07.30.09 at 8:56 pm }

First: your screenshot reveals that this is an Associated Press story, not a Fox News original story. The inaccuracies in the story come from the AP and could have appeared in any major news outlet.

Second: the errors in other stories you point out (mislabeling Iraq and Republican party members) are certainly no worse than the errors made every day by the object of every lefty journalist’s dreams, the New York Times.

Your criticisms reflect poorly not on Fox News, but on the intelligence of reporters in general. These people have always thought they were smarter than they really are.

4 Orenge { 07.30.09 at 9:37 pm }

The reps-as-dems thing on Fox news is just weird. Do they do the reverse too? If so, then it’s incompetence. If not, then it’s a clever right-wing technique. People who aren’t local to the state won’t be familiar with a politician, so they’ll believe all the “bad guys” are democrats! It’s just crazy enough to be true. Maybe.

But let’s face it, even if you take away the incompetent “honest mistakes,” Fox news plays fast and loose with the truth in ways the Times never dreamed of. Unbelievable. Tell people what they want to hear… and profit! Then take it to the extreme…

5 The Mad Hatter { 07.30.09 at 11:09 pm }

You forgot to mention that bastion of journalism, the Daily Grauniad.

6 hmciv { 07.31.09 at 1:58 am }

Mac Users: if your Trojan is making you hoarse, you’re doing it wrong.

7 Dafydd Williams { 07.31.09 at 2:04 am }

@Orenge:

I think I recall reading that people recognise names before appellations or affiliations. At least, that’s my recollection. I advise searching for the original research before taking my word for it.

If that’s the case, however, it may be a ploy to take advantage of name recognition at ballot time.

8 walter { 07.31.09 at 7:55 am }

What about the “name the party” games played by many left-leaning major news outlets, including the New York Times and the Associated Press? When a Republican is in trouble, stories tend to list prominently the party affiliation in the headline or the lead paragraph. However, when Democrats are in trouble, the party affiliation is often omitted or listed toward the end of the story. Curious…

9 ebob { 07.31.09 at 7:58 am }

This story doesn’t seem to be up to Daniel’s usual level of research and analysis. This AP story was picked up by USA Today and Highbeam Research (which seems to simply be a feed aggregator). The headlines there were “Porn ruse shows Macs’ are bigger target for crooks” and “Online Crooks Target Macs With Porn Ruse”. [sic–The stray apostrophe really was in USA Today's headline.]

More interesting would be this article about an SMS vulnerability that Apple has known about for weeks and still not fixed (though Google fixed the same vulnerability promptly): http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-10299378-245.html?tag=rtcol;pop

10 VeoSotano { 07.31.09 at 9:43 am }

It doesn’t matter if the story comes from Fox or from AP or wherever… Fact is that it’s FUD and missinformation. This kind of articles are the ones that Windows enthusiasts like to refer to (though always vaguely) when saying that Mac OSX has viruses and that it is only a matter of time that Apple’s security state is the same as Microsoft’s. Uh-oh!

11 Thomas { 07.31.09 at 12:31 pm }

Don’t forget Intego’s role in the fear-mongering. They will get out in front of the first whisper of trouble to pitch their products. They have no shame at all.

12 danieleran { 07.31.09 at 2:52 pm }

The problem with the article was mainly in the headline. That’s an issue for Fox’s audience, which doesn’t read into facts beyond the simple half dozen words in the headline (or talking point).

The fact that the (Fox) headline contradicted the (AP) story is just more telling.

And yes, Fox does occasionally label Democrats as Republicans, such as in races where the Democrat is winning. So not entirely random.

As Thomas points out, Intego is as much of a villain in pushing this fear mongering.

Also – Apple has issued a patch for the SMS issue in iPhone 3.01.

13 mihomeagent { 07.31.09 at 7:36 pm }

Yeah, Dan. That would be far more convincing if other networks did not make the same errors occasionally too in their Chiron graphics; if in a massive proportion of stories about Democratic malfeasants the party were not simply ignored while it is played up in stories about Republican malfeasants; and if there were any truth at all to your broadbrush smear of Fox watchers, as if you have any clue at all about what its audience reads or reads into. As usual, your unnecessary political turns in your articles only drag them down into ludicrous hysteria.

14 mihomeagent { 07.31.09 at 7:52 pm }

Oh, and by the way: The claim that the reason for your roping Fox into this because “the problem with the article was mainly in the headline” is even more risible than your lame justification that Fox readers just kant thumk deap enuff. Just one example of another outlet’s headlining of the same Associated Press story: “Porn ruse shows Macs’ are bigger target for crooks.” Wow! There’s some huge differences! That would sure not convey what Fox’s headline conveyed, would it? Actually what it does is show that the Fox News headline did NOT, as you claimed it does and constitutes “the problem,” contradict the AP story.

Clearly, the problem with the article is not mainly in the headline; otherwise your article wouldn’t have needed to pick apart the serial contradictions in the article itself. But then, your real motivation was to bash Fox, anyone conservative who happens to watch Fox News, the Republican party, and — what the hell, you know it’s true as I know it even if he’s not mentioned — George Bush.

And now for the piece de resistance: Way to stay current, Dan. So hysterical are you to bash Fox (add the rest of the list here), you grope back to a story that is from November 02, 2007 — yes, 2007 — to find a sin for Fox to have committed. Yet your tone and breathlessness in this report of yours, dated July 30, 2009, with its reference to how the threat is already two years old, is meant to convey that you are talking about a recent or current Fox News report.

What’s going on with that? Are you assuming that your readers won’t “read into facts beyond the simple half dozen words in the headline (or talking point)”?

15 benlewis { 08.01.09 at 1:14 pm }

Wide Stance – LOL

16 walter { 08.03.09 at 11:41 am }

I should declare that a defense of Fox News is not a defense of the corrupt Republicans mentioned in this article. Craig is a dirtbag and Sanford should resign or be thrown out of office. And not just because he used taxpayer dollars to fund his escapade in South America, but because, if he can’t be trusted by his own wife, then he certainly can’t be trusted by the people of South Carolina. People in power should be held to high standards of conduct than simple legality.

One of the biggest problems of this country is its descent into party politics. People are more concerned about the advancement of their parties than doing what is right.

My question is, where is Watchdog Dan when other mainstream media outlets publish misinformation? This smacks of the same old partisan politics.

17 ejon123 { 08.03.09 at 10:22 pm }

Walter doth protest too much.

18 enzos { 08.05.09 at 5:27 pm }

Hi Dan.. map skills? … here’s The Chaser team from “CNNNN” asking typical Americans in the street which country America should invade next. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp4iI59BfpQ

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