Malware Targeting iOS, OS X gets Stronger

Thursday, November 5, 2015 @ 03:11 PM gHale

Malware targeting iOS and OS X users and developers continues to increase its capabilities, researchers said.

XcodeGhost malware first came to light in mid-September by Chinese developers, and it ended up undergoing analysis by security firms, Palo Alto Networks and FireEye.

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In short, by using the malware, attackers can perform various actions, such as collecting information from infected devices and opening arbitrary websites, said researchers at FireEye.

Attackers distribute the malware with the aid of modified versions of the Apple Xcode development platform, which they posted on various Chinese websites knowing developers there prefer third-party sources over Apple’s official servers due to slow download speeds.

With no malicious OS X apps reported, researchers are finding thousands of iOS apps infected with XcodeGhost, many of which made it to Apple’s official app store.

Apple took steps to remove the malicious apps and prevent further infections. FireEye said the threat is still partially active and has made its way to enterprise users. The malware has mainly targeted China, but most of the 210 enterprises running XcodeGhost-infected apps are in Germany and the United States, mainly in the education sector.

These infected applications have made more than 28,000 attempts to connect to their command and control (C&C) servers. While attackers no longer control these servers, FireEye said they could end up hijacked.

The developers of popular applications whose products made it to the App Store infected with XcodeGhost released updates to replace the rogue versions, but there are still users that have not installed them. In the case of WeChat, one of the most popular infected apps, FireEye found nearly 3,000 users still utilizing the infected version.

“Some enterprises have taken steps to block the XcodeGhost DNS query within their network to cut off the communication between employees’ iPhones and the attackers’ CnC servers to protect them from being hijacked. However, until these employees update their devices and apps, they are still vulnerable to potential hijacking of the XcodeGhost CnC traffic — particularly when outside their corporate networks,” FireEye researchers said.

Of the infected iPhones observed by the security firm, 10 percent are running iOS 7, 65 percent are running iOS 8, and 35 percent are running iOS 9.

In iOS 9, a version of the mobile operating system released in mid-September, Apple introduced a new security feature designed to prevent apps from connecting to a server insecurely, over HTTP. This prevented XcodeGhost from connecting to its C&C servers.