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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags malwareAppleSynack

Featured

Slideshows

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

Partners are actively building out security practices and services to match, yet remain challenged by a lack of guidance in the market. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable - in association with Sophos - assessed the making of an MSSP, outlining the blueprint for growth and how partners can differentiate in New Zealand.

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ
Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

The leading players of the New Zealand channel came together to celebrate a year of achievement at the inaugural Reseller News Platinum Club lunch in Auckland. Following the Reseller News Innovation Awards, Platinum Club provides a platform to showcase the top performing partners and start-ups of the past 12 months, with more than ​​50 organisations in the spotlight.​​​

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018
Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

HP has honoured its leading partners in New Zealand during 2018, following 12 months of growth through the local channel. Unveiled during the fourth running of the ceremony in Auckland, the awards recognise and celebrate excellence, growth, consistency and engagement of standout Kiwi partners.

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ
Show Comments