6 November 2014

Apple devices under malware attack

iphones, iPads and Macs hit by WireLurker virus that steals personal information

Apple devices are at risk of a virus described by researchers as ‘the biggest scale’ malware they have ever seen.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

Dubbed WireLurker, the malware targets both Mac computers as well as phones and tablets running iOS when connected using a USB cable.

After it has infected the Mac, when a mobile device is connected to the infected computer the virus spreads and installs malicious apps.

It was discovered by experts at Palo Alto Networks who detailed their findings in a research paper.

‘We believe that this malware heralds a new era in attacking Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms,’ explained lead researcher Claud Xiao.

‘It is only the second known malware that attacks iOS devices through OS X via USB [and] is the first malware to automate generation of malicious iOS applications, through binary file replacement.’

WireLurker monitors iOS devices, including iPods, iPhones and iPads, connected to a Mac via USB.

The virus begins by infecting the Mac OS software, through malicious files or links.

When a device is connected to this infected Mac, the malware automatically installs malicious apps onto the phone or tablet.

The researchers said this malware combines a number of techniques to successfully 'realise a new brand of threat to all iOS devices'.

WireLurker is then capable of stealing information from the devices it infects.

This malware is under active development and its creator’s ultimate goal is not yet clear, added Mr Xiao.

Palo Alto Networks said that the attacks have been concentrated in China, and only currently affect Chinese users because the malware originated from a Chinese third-party apps store called Maiyadi.

However, it has the potential to spread to other regions, and other stores.

According to the company, more than 460 infected apps had been downloaded over 356,000 times so far.

The experts suggest iOS and Mac owners only download apps from the official Apple app store and that they make sure to keep their software up to date.

They also advise people to install antivirus and security software, and never connect a device to an unknown, or unsafe computer.

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