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Apple attacked by Chinese hackers, Mac software tool coming to protect consumers

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Apple on Tuesday disclosed that it was hacked by the same group that targeted social networking site Facebook, and also announced that an incoming software update for OS X will protect consumers from the same type of vulnerability.

Calling it an "unprecedented admission," Apple revealed to Reuters that a sophisticated attack compromised a small number of its employees' Mac laptops. No user information was compromised, and there is no evidence that any information has been stolen.

Apple also revealed that it plans to release a software tool later Tuesday that will protect customers against the same type of software that was used against its employees.

The company also provided a full statement on the matter to The Loop:

"Apple has identified malware which infected a limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers. The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers. We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple. We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware."

Apple is the latest in a number of companies that have come forward to reveal they were hacked by a group from China. Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal also revealed earlier this year that their computers were compromised, and those efforts have been linked to the Chinese army.

The group, which has been identified as "Unit 61398" of the People's Liberation Army, also targeted social networking sites Facebook and Twitter in their efforts. The attacks against American corporations are believed to have emanated from a 12-story building located on the outskirts of Shanghai."We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network," Apple said in a statement

Facebook, in particular, was compromised through a Java exploit that was used to install malware on the company's systems. The attack was detected when Facebook officials noticed a suspicious domain listed in its system request logs.

Also known by the name "Comment Crew," the China-based hacking operation is also said to have gone after companies involved in America's critical infrastructure, such as power, gas and water. The "Crew" has also attacked iconic brands like Coca-Cola.

Chinese officials, however, have denied that their government engages in computer hacking. They have instead suggested that their country is also the victim of such hackers.