'Art project' video game attacks Apple Mac machines

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A 1980s-style video game attacks the Mac platform, deleting users' files as they progress through the level and shoot enemies. While its creator clearly warns of the consequences, the software has been labeled a Trojan horse.

The software created by Zach Gage is described as an "art project." The "game" generates aliens based on the number of files on a user's computer, and killing them deletes a file. Upon the player's death the game is supposed to delete itself. It includes an online raking of players' scores.

"By way of exploring what it means to kill in a video-game, Lose/Lose broaches bigger questions," the project's creator said. "As technology grows, our understanding of it diminishes, yet, at the same time, it becomes increasingly important in our lives. At what point does our virtual data become as important to us as physical possessions? If we have reached that point already, what real objects do we value less than our data? What implications does trusting something so important to something we understand so poorly have?"

While Gage sees his project as art, Symantec views it as a Trojan, though "Lose/Lose" is not seen as a great threat at the moment. The malware's creator even warns on his Web site what the application does, and upon starting the game, players are also cautioned that it will result in the deletion of files from their computer.

But the security firm cautioned that the threat, called OSX.Loosemaque, could be modified by someone with "more malicious intentions" and passed on to unsuspecting users without the current warnings.

In a video demonstrating the Trojan, Symantec showed how the game begins to delete files on the system as aliens are killed, in a top-down shooter designed in the style of classics like Galaga. After a number of aliens were killed, the program attempted to delete a critical system file, which caused the malware to crash.

"You'll notice that while I'm blowing up the ships, the files in my Documents folder are disappearing," the video states. "It looks like the game chooses users' documents first, and then it moves on to preference files contained within the very subfolders of the user's home directory."

Cult of Mac noted that the game has also been defined as a threat by Sophos Anti-Virus and Intego VirusBarrier X5. The software was first released in September.

Viruses on the Mac platform remain scarce, but with the recent release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple included enhanced malware protection.


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