Apple has released Security Update 2011-003 for Mac OS X 10.6 which updates the system’s built in ‘File Quarantine’ (aka. XProtect) mechanism to detect and remove OSX.MacDefender.A. More significantly, however, Apple has now enabled the ability for File Quarantine to receive daily updates to to its malware definition list, essentially giving Mac OS X a very simplistic built-in anti-virus. Now it’s just up to Apple to actually update the malware definitions list on a regular basis.
In System Preferences > Security > General, users can choose whether or not they want to “Automatically update safe downloads list”. I’m not sure “safe downloads list” is the best name for it however, as it doesn’t really help users understand what its purpose is. I highly recommend keeping this option checked. Note that the screenshot below is not a recommendation of what your preferences should look like, it’s merely highlighting the new option. For more into about configuring your Security settings check out Securing Leopard: Security, FileVault and Firewall (to be updated with this new setting shortly).
[Updated 01/06/2011] As I wholly expected, a new variant of MACDefender is already out in the wild that does not get detected by OSX’s File Quarantine. As File Quarantine is simply a blacklist of known malware, it does not have the ability to pick up on malware it doesn’t recognise. This will be a good test to see how quickly Apple responds and updates the File Quarantine definitions. If you installed the 2011-003 security update then your system is already set to check for new updates every 24 hours. Browse safe out there.
[Updated 02/06/2011] Apple has already updated the File Quarantine definitions for the latest MACDefender variant (OSX.MacDefender.C). Pretty good response time by Apple!