Company backs off bounty for Mac OS X virus

A company-sponsored contest offering $25,000 for a Mac virus has been cancelled over concerns about legal liability.

A company that offered US$25,000 for the first virus that automatically spreads among Apple Computer computers running the OS X operating system cancelled the virus writing contest and retracted the offer of cash, citing concerns about legal liability.

DVForge said on Saturday that it would not offer cash for a Mac virus, after legal concerns were raised about the contest and in the wake of complaints from Apple security experts. The contest was announced Friday and was intended to raise awareness of what Jack Campbell, chief executive officer of DVForge, considers fear mongering by antivirus company Symantec which said last week that threats to the Apple platform were on the rise, Campbell said.

DVForge makes a variety of peripheral devices for Apple products, such as the "JamPod," a small guitar amplifier module that plugs into iPod portable music players and allows their owners to play along with the songs stored on the device. In addition to selling products for the Apple platform, the company uses Apple computers internally and is a bastion of Apple technology experts and loyalists, Campbell said.

The idea for a contest to create the first self-propagating virus for the OS X platform was the result of frustration over a widely publicized report from Symantec last week, which said that the Mac OS is increasingly a target for malicious activity that is more commonly associated with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows and Unix-based operating systems.

The Symantec warnings were baseless and intended only to "scare the hell out of people," Campbell said. Company employees, including Campbell, "lost our minds" when they read about Symantec's claims, and saw the report as a threat to DVForge's business, as much as Apple's.

The idea of a contest grew out of conversations with technical staff at DVForge last week and was intended to call Symantec's "bluff," Campbell said.

"We have just as much incentive as Apple to fight back," he said.

The company placed two G5 PowerMac computers running OS X 10.3 Panther on the Internet and issued a statement on its Web page that challenged Internet users to create a virus that would spread between the two machines on or before July 31, 2005. In a dig at Symantec, DVForge offered double the reward, US$50,000, to any employee of Symantec who won the contest, Campbell said.

Campbell was confident that the security features in OS X would prevent anyone from creating a self-propagating virus that moved between the two machines before the deadline expired, he said.

However, after word of the contest quickly spread online, Campbell was contacted by senior Apple employees who were experts on the security of OS X who said that it was possible to create such a virus, though doing so would be difficult. The Apple employees encouraged Campbell to end the contest. He was also contacted by an intellectual property attorney and Mac enthusiast, who warned him that writing a virus could be considered illegal, and that DVForge could be considered to be aiding and abetting an illegal activity by sponsoring the contest.

Worried about the prospect of embroiling his company in a legal battle, Campbell cancelled the contest Saturday. However, he also issued a strongly worded statement on the DVForge Web site that railed against Symantec and "the rest of the fear-breeding folks who (prey) on the lack of knowledge about how viruses work."

Companies such as his have a responsibility to take a stand on matters such as the relative security of operating systems, and to counter what he considers untruths, such as the often articulated opinion that the lack of viruses and worms that target the Mac platform is due to the relatively small number of Mac users, he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Roberts

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?