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Increase in targeted attacks highlight growing threat of malware on Macs

13 Feb 2013
First Shellshock malware emerges

Malware attacks on Uyghur supporters running Mac OS X have been on the rise over the past two months.

According to a joint report from Kaspersky and AlienVault Labs, hackers are sending out virus laden email attachments that if opened put monitoring malware on Mac devices. The security firms say the exploit highlights continually focused attacks on Mac computers.

"During the past months, we've monitored a series of targeted attacks against Uyghur supporters, most notably against the World Uyghur Congress (WUC)," wrote Kaspersky director of global research & analysis team Costin Raiu in a blog post.

"Although some of these attacks were observed during 2012, we've noticed a significant spike in the number of attacks during Jan 2013 and Feb 2013, indicating the attackers are extremely active at the moment."

Attackers using the hack send out emails highlighting certain causes that may interest supporters of the Uyghur people. The emails contain attached booby-trapped Word documents that when opened exploit a loophole in outdated versions of MS Word.

The loophole called "MaControl backdoor" offers hackers access to the infected machines email and contact information. Hackers working under the exploit can also run commands on infected Mac OS X computers.

Kaspersky says the attack is another demonstration of the continued use of advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks. The security firm says the exploit should serve as a reminder that Mac's are not impenetrable to malware.

"With these attacks, we continue to see an expansion of the APT capabilities to attack Mac OS X users," continued Raiu in the blog post.

"In general, Mac users operate under a false sense of security which comes from the years old mantra that ‘Macs don't get viruses'."

Attacks surveyed target supporters of the Uyghur people, a Turkish ethnic group with strong roots in Central Asia. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, approximately eight million Uyghur people live in the western region of China.

The Uyghur people have continued to experience tumultuous issues with the Chinese government and some support groups of the Uyghurs have pushed for independence from China.

Similar attacks date all the way back to 2002 when hackers were targeting both pro-Tibet and pro-Uyghur people.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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