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Hackers hit Apple's iOS and Mac OS operating systems

06 Jul 2012
Apple Macbook Pro

Hackers have mounted a two-pronged assault on Apple, with an advanced persistent threat uncovered targeting the Mac OS X system in the same week researchers reported discovering the first piece of iOS malware.

Kaspersky Labs detected a cyber attack targeting Uyghyr activists with customised emails containing ZIP attachments that if clicked let them exploit a Mac OS X backdoor on Wednesday.

Named the "MaControl backdoor", once installed the exploit grants hackers access to the machine's list files and transfer files. Past this, the MaControl backdoor also lets the hacker run commands on the infected Mac computer.

The exploit is the second major attack to target Apple users this year, with the infamous Flashback malware being uncovered at the start of 2012. At its peak the malware was believed to have infected over 600,000 systems.

Kaspersky researcher David Emm claimed that further attacks targeting Apple systems will inevitably continue.

"The last 12 months have been a tipping point for the number of attacks targeting Mac. It's the start of a trend and new focus on Apple," said Emm in an interview with V3.

"It's the tipping point where it has become worth it for criminals to target Apple, with the OS popularity meaning that they now get good bang for their buck by targeting them."

Emm added the attack marked a significant change in behaviour regarding attackers' approach to the Mac OS.

"The word here is targeted. It's no longer speculative, the purpose now is to ensnare anyone unlucky enough to fall for the scam," said Emm.

The news follows Kaspersky's claim to have discovered the first ever piece of working malware running on Apple's mobile iOS operating system.

Kaspersky reported discovering a malicious Trojan app called "Find and Call" on the Android and Apple stores on Thursday. The app reportedly attempted to harvest a user's contacts and upload them to a remote server.

Despite Kaspersky's strong claims, competing security vendor Sophos has questioned whether the app really is malware.

"I'm not sure I 100 per cent agree with Kaspersky that it is malware," said Sophos researcher Graham Cluley.

"It would probably be more accurate to say that the app is "spammy" - as it leaks data all over the place in plain text over http - which means the data could be intercepted and sniffed."

Moving past the debate regarding whether the app does count as malware, Emm said that the discovery was likely a one-off.

"The biggest target for the last six months has been Android and I don't think that will change," said Emm.

"Apple's approach makes it more difficult for malware authors. Unless the device is jailbroken you need to go through the App Store, which makes iOS far easier to police and is a limiting factor for malware authors."

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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