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Mac virus could be costing Google $10K a day

The hackers behind a virus plaguing Macintosh computers could be generating up to $10,000 per day off of Google advertisement clicks, according to security software company Symantec.

In a statement on their official blog, Symantec said the makers of the Flashback Trojan — a virus that first appeared in March and infected some 600,000 Macs by early April — have profited by targeting search queries made on Google through Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers.

It’s a Mac-attacking virus that Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher at antivirus software company Kaspersky Lab, told the New York Times in April was the largest scale and most sophisticated attack on Mac OS X to date.

Flashback may reroute users to another page where they, instead of Google, receive revenue from the click — effectively stealing ad revenue from Google. A Symantec analysis of a hijacked web search for “toys” found that the Flashback hackers were paid about 8 cents for the redirected ad click.

“This ultimately results in lost revenue for Google and untold sums of money for the Flashback gang,” the blog post noted.

According to Symantec, the virus ran rampant earlier this year due to a six-week period between when the Flashback virus first began to target Mac systems and when Apple’s patch for the vulnerability was available.

“This window of opportunity helped the Flashback Trojan to infect Macs on a large scale,” the post said, noting that hackers used that six-week window to exploit vulnerable websites to add malicious code snippets.

Apple released a statement soon after the virus began affecting Mac users, noting that “Apple is working with ISPs worldwide to disable this command and control network.”

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