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Security researchers said that a malware program called "Flashback" had infected some computers made by Apple Inc. (AAPL) before the company took steps to protect its users.
According to F-Secure Corp., a computer security company, the Flashback program was capable of infecting Apple Macintosh systems through Java software, an element of programs developed by many companies.
Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., said it released a fix for the Java vulnerability on Tuesday through its software-updating service. F-Secure has posted instructions for how to remove the malware from Mac computers if customers suspect they have been infected.
The incident is the latest blemish to Apple's reputation as a technology platform that is rarely afflicted with viruses and other malware. That status has been attributed both to features of its operating systems as well as the Mac's small market share, which security researchers say has made it a less attractive target for attackers.
But the Mac's momentum has been growing lately. Apple has sold more than 60 million of the computers, 5.2 million of which it sold in its most recently reported quarter. A Russian security firm said more than half a million Macs may have been infected by the Flashback malware, though other security researchers have not verified those findings.
Last year, a fake antivirus program called "Mac Defender" infected an untold number of Apple computers, asking customers for credit card information in order to purportedly protect their computers. As the number of affected customers grew, Apple trained its built-in security software to find and remove it from their computers.
Java was developed by Sun Microsystems Inc., and is now owned by Oracle Corp. (ORCL) since it purchased the computer maker.
Apple doesn't ship Java software on its computers, but customers can download and install it if they want to. Oracle has said it plans to maintain Java for Apple computers itself in the future.
-By Ian Sherr, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6455; email@example.com