Menu
Apple security checks may miss iWorm malware

Apple security checks may miss iWorm malware

Gatekeeper and XProtect aren't entirely effective against iWorm, according to new research

iWorm was seeded inside pirated software shown on The Pirate Bay torrent search engine.

iWorm was seeded inside pirated software shown on The Pirate Bay torrent search engine.

Apple's security technologies for Mac OS X may still miss iWorm, a piece of malware discovered in late September that infected thousands of computers.

Apple released an update for its XProtect antivirus engine to detect iWorm, but the update only detects when iWorm's installer is launched, which is a one-time operation, said Patrick Wardle, director of research with Synack, a computer security company based in Redwood City, California. He wrote a paper describing his findings.

It means that computers already infected with iWorm before the update would still be compromised.

Apple "released a signature, but it doesn't address the problem," Wardle said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Unless the user has another antivirus product installed that has a correct signature, those infections aren't going to go away."

iWorm, which is a backdoor that can steal data from a computer, infected more than 18,000 machines, according to security company Dr. Web. It does not exploit any vulnerabilities on Mac OS X but instead relies on tricking people to install it.

The malware was found wrapped into pirated copies of Adobe Systems' Photoshop and Illustrator applications, Parallels Desktop and Microsoft Office for Mac software offered on The Pirate Bay, the infamous search engine for content shared using the BitTorrent peer-to-peer network.

Why Apple only released an update -- known as a "signature" -- for iWorm's installer is unclear. Apple officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Wardle contends that's dangerous since another Apple security technology, called "Gatekeeper," can also fail to stop iWorm in some scenarios.

When a person downloads an application, Gatekeeper checks if it has a digital signature that indicates it comes from Apple's Store or if it has an approved developer's certificate. If it has neither, Gatekeeper warns that the application could pose a security risk, although users can choose to run it.

But only certain applications, including Safari, Firefox and Chrome, will flag files -- known as a "quarantine attribute" -- for Gatekeeper to check. If someone downloads a file using uTorrent, a popular client for downloading torrents from The Pirate Bay, it isn't programmed to flag files for inspection by Gatekeeper, Wardle said.

Wardle said he hasn't contacted Apple with his findings, but he said Apple is likely aware of the Gatekeeper's weaknesses, as it appears the way it works was a conscious design decision.

Ultimately, it means that malware authors will still be able to take advantage of the method iWorm uses.

"Unfortunately, it [iWorm] is able to bypass Apple's malware mitigations really easily," Wardle said. "It illustrates that malware on OS X is a problem. It's not that Macs are immune to malware."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleSynacksecuritymalware

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments