Experts at SophosLabs, believe they have discovered the first virus for the Apple Mac OS X platform.
The virus, named OSX/Leap-A (also known as OSX/Oompa-A) spreads via instant messaging systems.
The virus, the first to be found on the Mac Operating system is likely to send shockwaves through the Apple community.
According to SophosLabs, the OSX/Leap-A worm spreads via the iChat instant messaging system, forwarding itself as a file called latestpics.tgz to contacts on the infected users' buddy list.
Proclaiming to be screenshots of the next version of the Mac Operating System, when users open the latestpics.tgz archive file it disguises its contents with a JPEG graphic icon in an attempt to fool people into thinking it is harmless.
"Some owners of Mac computers have held the belief that Mac OS X is incapable of harboring computer viruses, but Leap-A will leave them shellshocked, as it shows that the malware threat on Mac OS X is real", said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Mac users shouldn't think it's okay to lie back and not worry about viruses."
However some members of the Mac community have claimed that OSX/Leap-A is a Trojan horse, and not a virus or worm in the hope of keeping the Mac's virus free claim intact.
However because it requires user interaction (the user has to receive a file via iChat, and manually choose to open and run the file contained inside) Sophos claim that it is a virus. Trojan horses do not contain any code to distribute or spread themselves, viruses and worms do.
Symantec, who are listing the virus threat as low risk threat, suggest a number of basic security "best practices" for Apple Mac users to follow on their website including Turning off and remove unneeded services among other suggestions.
More information about the virus and how to remove it can be found at itswebsite