Mobile Threat Monday: XcodeGhost in the Shell

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple Releases Watch Software Update After Bug Caused Delay.

BOSTON • Apple says it is cleaning up its iOS App Store to remove malicious iPhone and iPad programs, identified in the first large-scale attack on the popular mobile software outlet.Computing giant Apple said today it has removed software from its App Store, after reports said hundreds of apps including some of China’s most popular were infected with malware.Apple Inc. said a software update for Apple Watch is now available after last week’s release was delayed because a problem in the operating system couldn’t be fixed in time. The revelation came after several cyber security firms reported finding a malicious program dubbed XcodeGhost embedded in hundreds of legitimate apps.

Owners of Apple Watch can download the software update, called watchOS 2, which includes features such as new faces and the availability of native applications from outside developers that use the device’s heart-rate sensor and other tools. The hackers embedded the malicious code in these apps by convincing developers of legitimate software to use a tainted, counterfeit version of Apple’s software for creating iOS and Mac apps, which is known as Xcode, Apple said on Sunday. “We are working with the developers to make sure they are using the proper version of Xcode to rebuild their apps,” Apple spokesman Christine Monaghan said. Apps infected by the malware — code-named XcodeGhost — could transmit information about a user’s machine, mount phishing attacks to try to steal passwords, and access clipboard information, it said. But other firms said to be affected included Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Kuaidi, Internet portal NetEase, and mobile phone operator China Unicom, among several more. The device is Apple’s first new hardware product since the iPad was released in 2010 and a key part of Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s attempt to find areas of growth outside of the iPhone.

Palo Alto Networks director of threat intelligence Ryan Olson said the malware had limited functionality and his firm had uncovered no examples of data theft or other harm as a result of the attack. Anti-censorship group Greatfire.org, which tracks Chinese Internet restrictions, hacking and other online issues, said the attack appeared to originate in compromised versions of Xcode, Apple’s developer software, which were then used by Chinese programmers. Still, he said it was “a pretty big deal” because it showed the App Store could be compromised if hackers infected machines of software developers writing legitimate apps. Chinese authorities impose a range of restrictions on the Internet in the country, dubbed the Great Firewall, which can slow access to sites abroad to a trickle. Many Chinese developers prefer to download software from domestic websites, Greatfire.org said, “because of slow download speeds from foreign websites in China”.

Wee Teck Loo, head of consumer electronics at Euromonitor International, added: “It is definitely embarrassing for Apple but the reality is that malware is a persistent problem since the days of PCs.” Tencent, which makes the WeChat software with around 500 million users in China said: “A security flaw, caused by an external malware, was recently discovered affecting iOS users,” adding it had repaired the flaw. Tencent said on its official WeChat blog that the security flaw affects WeChat 6.2.5, an old version of its chatting app, and that newer versions were unaffected.

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