A SECURITY expert has found a way hackers could take control of Apple computers and steal protected data.

The technique – dubbed “Machiavelli” – only works on machines that have already been victimized, such as ones attacked with pirated software.

It can take control of Apple’s Safari browser, logging passwords to financial accounts and data on bank statements.

Prominent Mac researcher Dino Dai Zovi disclosed the software flaw at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

About 4000 security professionals are in attendance, including some who are really hackers. Black Hat runs immediately prior to the Defcon conference, a meeting that includes malicious hackers who often go by screen names rather than real ones.