WASHINGTON: Apple computers faced their first effective virus attack this weekend, ending the air of invincibility attached to the world’s top electronic product.
Palo Alto Networks, a security company based in Santa Clara, California, identified the virus as “ransomware”, which hijacks a computer, and locks a user’s files until a ransom is paid.
The programmers require victims to pay one Bitcoin, which is a little more than $400, to retrieve their files.
The virus infects two versions of a programme that installs a popular file-sharing tool called “Transmission” on Macs.
Palo Alto Networks said they spotted the ransomware on Apple’s operating system, OS X, on March 4, and reported the issue to Apple the same day.
Apple said it immediately took steps to protect users.
Palo Alto said this is the first time a fully functional version of ransomware has been detected in Apple’s operating system.
The virus comes at a time when the security of Apple products has come under intense scrutiny. The tech company is engaged in a major standoff with the US government over the security of its iPhones.
The government wants Apple to share with it the data of an iPhone used by the perpetrators of the Dec 2, 2015, terrorist attack in California that caused the death of 14 people.
The terrorists were also killed later after a police chase.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court refused to review an appeals court’s determination that Apple had conspired with book publishers to raise the prices of digital books.
The case arose from Apple’s 2010 entry into the e-book marketplace, which had been dominated by Amazon and its Kindle reader. Amazon had set low prices for its device, which frustrated publishers.
Apple entered the market with its iPad device and allowed publishers to set their own process. Apple received a cut from each sale.
Last year, a divided three-judge panel in New York, said the terms Apple had offered to five big publishers allowed them to engage in a price-fixing conspiracy.