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Apple to Alert Users Who Installed Apps Compromised by XcodeGhost

xcode-6Apple has added an XcodeGhost question and answer page to its Chinese website today that explains what the malware is, how some users may be affected and next steps the company is taking to ensure that developers and end users alike are protected against malicious software going forward.

Apple claims that it has no evidence to suggest that XcodeGhost has been used for anything malicious, such as the transmission of personally identifiable information, stipulating that the code is only able to deliver some general information about apps and system information.

Nevertheless, Apple says it is working closely with developers and will soon list the top 25 most popular apps impacted by XcodeGhost on its Chinese website. The company will also be alerting users to let them know if they have downloaded apps that could have been compromised. Many affected apps have since been updated and are no longer infected by XcodeGhost.

Relevant portions of the Apple FAQ for users:
How does this affect me? How do I know if my device has been compromised?
We have no information to suggest that the malware has been used to do anything malicious or that this exploit would have delivered any personally identifiable information had it been used.

We’re not aware of personally identifiable customer data being impacted and the code also did not have the ability to request customer credentials to gain iCloud and other service passwords.

As soon as we recognized these apps were using potentially malicious code we took them down. Developers are quickly updating their apps for users.

Malicious code could only have been able to deliver some general information such as the apps and general system information.

Is it safe for me to download apps from App Store?
We have removed the apps from the App Store that we know have been created with this counterfeit software and are blocking submissions of new apps that contain this malware from entering the App Store.

We’re working closely with developers to get impacted apps back on the App Store as quickly as possible for customers to enjoy.

A list of the top 25 most popular apps impacted will be listed soon so users can easily verify if they have downloaded the latest versions of these apps. After the top 25 impacted apps, the number of impacted users drops significantly.

Customers will be receiving more information letting them know if they’ve downloaded an app/apps that could have been compromised. Once a developer updates their app, that will fix the issue on the user’s device once they apply that update.

We’re working to make it faster for developers in China to download Xcode betas. To verify that their version of Xcode has not been altered, they can take the following steps posted at
iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users should also read our XcodeGhost FAQ to learn more about the malware and how to keep yourself protected.

Apple also outlined steps for developers to validate Xcode using Terminal on OS X.



Top Rated Comments

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12 months ago

The lesson to be learned is that you can't trust Chinese businesses, not without some research into their business practices anyway. But that's basic internet common sense isn't it?

I wouldn't pin this on any one country. Look at the mess Volkswagen just got themselves into. GM let faulty ignition switches keep killing people even after they knew it was happening. Japanese airbags.

Corruption can happen anywhere. It just so happens that a lot of low cost, under-regulated business is happening in China right now. Germany, the US, and Japan don't have that excuse, but they let it happen too. I think it's easy to fall back on stereotypes and say that the events in some countries are "unique" and in other countries it's "endemic" without thinking it through.

Edit: I just noticed you said "internet common sense", which I recognize as being different from actual common sense...
Rating: 5 Votes
12 months ago

Apple really didn't think their security through.

I think that's a bit unfair. Apple software is remarkably secure, and they do take a lot of proactive steps to keep it that way. Sandboxing, code signing, GateKeeper, App Store approvals, etc all get a lot of resistance when they come out, but have had a positive affect on security.

What bothers me a little bit is that they really don't respond quickly to outside reports of vulnerabilities until they threaten bad press. I almost think they think security through very carefully, and have many very competent people focused on the problem, but suffer from some arrogance induced blindness.
Rating: 4 Votes
12 months ago

Apple should have caught the infected apps before approving them, but perhaps the main lesson to be learned here is to take great caution when downloading an app from a third-party server. In particular, download Apple apps from Apple only. This was easily avoidable and unwise developers created a huge mess.


How could apple have caught these apps? It's not like they simply failed to run a virus scan. The infection was completely unknown and doesn't do anything particularly dramatic to trigger alarm bells. There's virtually nothing to detect other than some fairly routine device polling.

Does this sound like a downplay to anyone?


Apps removed, users informed personally, C&C server taken down, devs notified. What's left for Apple to do, run around with their pants on their heads?
Rating: 4 Votes
12 months ago

I think the 'downplaying' might be in response to what it possibly could have done in some situations.

As you (I think) posted in another thread yesterday, Apple has been almost training users for phishing attacks by popping up Apple ID/iCloud logins all over the place. So, if someone were running one of these apps, and a dialog popped up, people might well have entered it (ex: run a game, dialog pops up, user thinks Apple wants them to login for Game Center), and now the hackers have their Apple ID.

If that's possible, that's kind of a big deal, as it's actually fairly likely to have happened.

Maybe Apple isn't aware of such an instance, so saying we're not aware of an attack is technically accurate... but if I'm speculating about the above, they certainly know about it.


Yeah, but I don't think Apple are going to publicly speculate on how bad it could have been. Hopefully they know and are going to do something about it. In-App-Phishing is now a (kind-of) reality. They do need to take a good look at how they've been handling passwords because (like most companies actually) they've let engineers run with it, and have neglected the human factors.
Rating: 3 Votes
12 months ago

As far as I know, based on reading the links and articles posted here the malware was trapped in Apple's standard sandbox. It couldn't get any sensitive information, only information about the device itself. It had code which could have been activated it to throw up fake prompts (for phishing passwords) but presumably only when the affected app was running in the foreground. It could also grab the contents of the clipboard, which may have included passwords from those people who copy&paste passwords between apps, or other sensitive information, but it would have been without any context at all, so even if it had ever been activated, the deluge of random anonymous clipboards from 100 million users would probably be of very little value.


I think the 'downplaying' might be in response to what it possibly could have done in some situations.

As you (I think) posted in another thread yesterday, Apple has been almost training users for phishing attacks by popping up Apple ID/iCloud logins all over the place. So, if someone were running one of these apps, and a dialog popped up, people might well have entered it (ex: run a game, dialog pops up, user thinks Apple wants them to login for Game Center), and now the hackers have their Apple ID.

If that's possible, that's kind of a big deal, as it's actually fairly likely to have happened.

Maybe Apple isn't aware of such an instance, so saying we're not aware of an attack is technically accurate... but if I'm speculating about the above, they certainly know about it.
Rating: 3 Votes
12 months ago
Why only the top N apps infected?! Shouldn't they list and take down all the apps infected? I don't think there's any reason to protect the developers here-- they made a grave error and should be accountable to it.

Why are they only sharing this information in China-- some of those apps are used globally.

Why did this take so long to provoke a reaction? When this report first came out 6 days ago, Apple should have sounded an internal alarm and gotten information within hours that would lead to action the same day.

I get that this isn't the end of the world, it's most likely a minor trojan that was mostly likely thwarted by Apple's security design. Still, it shouldn't be taken this casually. I don't care if the big picture impact is minimal-- we rely on App Store review to protect us from this nonsense, and it was circumvented because someone created a rogue version of an Apple branded product. I'd feel much more comfortable if Apple had moved on this more aggressively.
Rating: 3 Votes
12 months ago
Does this sound like a downplay to anyone?
Rating: 3 Votes
12 months ago
Apple should have caught the infected apps before approving them, but perhaps the main lesson to be learned here is to take great caution when downloading an app from a third-party server. In particular, download Apple apps from Apple only. This was easily avoidable and unwise developers created a huge mess.
Rating: 3 Votes
12 months ago

Of course Apple will downplay the extent of this issue. People should be demanding a 3rd party security audit.

Not to say you didn't try to answer my question, just simply stating Apple should be doing more in a security scenario.


Don't wait for Apple, read about it here...

http://researchcenter.paloaltonetworks.com/2015/09/update-xcodeghost-attacker-can-phish-passwords-and-open-urls-though-infected-apps/

The source code of the attack is out in the open, so anyone can take a look and assess the potential damage.
Rating: 2 Votes
12 months ago

I think the 'downplaying' might be in response to what it possibly could have done in some situations.

As you (I think) posted in another thread yesterday, Apple has been almost training users for phishing attacks by popping up Apple ID/iCloud logins all over the place. So, if someone were running one of these apps, and a dialog popped up, people might well have entered it (ex: run a game, dialog pops up, user thinks Apple wants them to login for Game Center), and now the hackers have their Apple ID.

If that's possible, that's kind of a big deal, as it's actually fairly likely to have happened.

Maybe Apple isn't aware of such an instance, so saying we're not aware of an attack is technically accurate... but if I'm speculating about the above, they certainly know about it.

I think it may also be because this is only one instance of a class of attacks. Someone found this one because of the network traffic it generated, but Apple clearly can't tell when a rogue compiler has been used. Downplaying it may be in hopes that people think this is contained and don't ask the question they can't answer: "Are there other compromised Xcode packages out there?"

I really don't like that Apple takes the tone of "sometimes people do this":


Why would a developer put customers at risk by downloading counterfeit software?
Sometimes developers search for our tools on other, non-Apple sites in an effort to find faster downloads of developer tools.


They should take the attitude of "developers should never do this", but then the question is "if it's so dangerous, why aren't you taking measures to detect it?"

Whatever their external stance, I really hope they're scrambling internally to patch this hole more securely.
Rating: 2 Votes

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