Apple OS X and iOS are the targets of a new family of malware. It’s believed that this is one of the first malware attacks to specifically target non-jailbroken Apple devices.
The new malware has been dubbed WireLurker and was found to impact thousands of devices in China. Researchers at Palo Alto Networks are credited with the discovery of the malware, and went on to explain how the malware works in this blog post:
WireLurker monitors any iOS device connected via USB with an infected OS X computer and installs downloaded third-party applications or automatically generated malicious applications onto the device, regardless of whether it is jailbroken. This is the reason we call it “wire lurker”. Researchers have demonstrated similar methods to attack non-jailbroken devices before; however, this malware combines a number of techniques to successfully realize a new brand of threat to all iOS devices.
As the folks at Palo Alto Networks explained to me in an email, this type of infection has been common in the Windows and Android ecosystems, but the arrival of WireLurker shows that malware developers are now beginning to use the same tactics on Apple products as they have taken for years with Windows and Android.
According to Forbes, the malware was spread primarily through pirated versions of popular games. At the same time, the malware isn’t stealing the usual type of information, like personal and financial data. Instead, the malware is looking at the device ID and Wi-Fi connection. So the Forbes article wondered if the whole purpose of WireLurker is to act as a law enforcement tool and catch software pirates.
It’s an intriguing thought, and maybe that’s the case. Or maybe it’s not. The bottom line is that WireLurker has the potential to be dangerous malware, as it has the ability to steal a lot of types of information from the device. Apple has been warned and, according to Business Insider, has issued a statement reminding users to use trusted sources for apps and software downloads.
The other point is that this may finally be the wake-up call for Apple users. With the popularity of OS X and iOS for both pleasure and business, this new era of malware poses a real threat to enterprise, government entities, and anyone who uses Apple devices.
Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba