Flashback Malware's Ad-Click Hijacking Detailed, Could Reap $10,000/Day

Antivirus firm Symantec has published a new blog post examining how the Flashback malware affecting hundreds of thousand of Macs has been generating revenue for its authors by hijacking users' ad clicks. According to the report, the widespread nature of the infection means that malware authors could have been generating up to $10,000 per day from the scheme at its peak based on previous analysis of malware click redirection.

The Flashback ad-clicking component is loaded into Chrome, Firefox, and Safari where it can intercept all GET and POST requests from the browser. Flashback specifically targets search queries made on Google and, depending on the search query, may redirect users to another page of the attacker's choosing, where they receive revenue from the click . (Google never receives the intended ad click.)

Symantec's work on the ad-click hijacking aspect of Flashback comes after Russian firm Dr. Web, which was responsible for the initial publicity about the malware, published its own report examining some of the early data on infected computers seeking to connect to command-and-control servers.

The report looks at nearly 100,000 connections that came in on April 13, finding that close to two-thirds of the infected machines identified themselves as running Mac OS X Snow Leopard, which was the last version of OS X to ship with Java enabled by default. OS X Lion does not include Java by default, and thus was responsible for only 11% of infections seen during the survey period.

flashback infection os share
Flashback infection share vs. operating system usage share (Data via Dr. Web, Chart via Computerworld)

As noted by Computerworld, OS X Lion represents nearly 40% of OS X copies currently in use, suggesting that Apple's decision to remove Java from the default Lion install is indeed helping to limit infections on Apple's newest machines.

[W]hile Snow Leopard's and Leopard's infection rates are higher than their usage shares, the opposite's true of OS X 10.7, or Lion. The 2011 OS accounted for 39.6% of all copies of OS X used last month, yet represented only 11.2% of the Flashback-compromised Macs.

Dr. Web's data on OS kernel versions being reported from infected Macs also demonstrates that many Mac users do not keep their systems up-to-date, with roughly 25% of Snow Leopard and Lion systems seen in the survey reporting themselves as at least one version behind Apple's most recent updates (10.6.8 for Snow Leopard and 10.7.3 for Lion).

Top Rated Comments

rjohnstone Avatar
118 months ago
If ever those who are still dragging heels over the move from SL to Lion needed a heads up, the stats are there...Keep up to date, adopt sensible practice and you should be fine....Sticking with "Old faithful" for the sake of it makes no sense at all now.
In many cases, upgrading is not possible.
Some of us with older hardware are SOL due to the lack of compatibility with older equipment or software that is still not supported under Lion.
Canon has yet to release a stable version of their EOS tools for Lion, so I am forced to keep a laptop with SL on it just so I can use the tools.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mike Oxard Avatar
118 months ago
Apple should follow the money, find out who the perps are then send the boys round to give them a good old fashioned kickin'
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
roadbloc Avatar
118 months ago
If ever those who are still dragging heels over the move from SL to Lion needed a heads up, the stats are there...Keep up to date, adopt sensible practice and you should be fine....Sticking with "Old faithful" for the sake of it makes no sense at all now.

What if upgrading is not an option? One thing I really dislike about Apple is their lack of support for legacy products. Microsoft still maintains XP, why can't Apple do so for their older OSs?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nickn Avatar
118 months ago
If ever those who are still dragging heels over the move from SL to Lion needed a heads up, the stats are there...Keep up to date, adopt sensible practice and you should be fine....Sticking with "Old faithful" for the sake of it makes no sense at all now.

Will you be paying for the upgrade to 10.7 for me? I'm not talking about the paltry $29... First, since rosetta support was dropped, I will need about $150 to purchase Intel capable replacement software. Second, is that my flat bed scanner also uses PPC software, which can't be upgraded, so I will need a whole new unit. Comparable scanners are running around $200. Will Paypal work for the $350? If you don't pay, why? Do you feel that it is a stupid waste of money when 10.6 does everything for free?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
marksman Avatar
118 months ago
What ad network is paying out for these clicks? Most ad networks pay out monthly. Has to be a scummy ad network to not deny payments to this kind of behavior.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
John.B Avatar
118 months ago
46% of statistics are made up on the spot.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
macbook colors 3d black bezels

Prosser: Next MacBook Air Could Come in Colors Similar to iMac

Friday May 7, 2021 6:55 am PDT by
According to Apple leaker Jon Prosser, Apple's upcoming release of the MacBook Air will feature various colors, similar to the colors in the newly released 24-inch iMac. In the latest video of his YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser says the same source who accurately provided him information on the first Apple silicon iMac coming in colors has told him that he recently saw a prototype...
tile amazon sidewalk integration

Tile to Leverage Amazon Echo and Ring Devices to Better Compete With AirTags

Friday May 7, 2021 2:07 pm PDT by
Amazon today announced that it is teaming up with Tile to add Amazon Sidewalk integration to Tile's Bluetooth trackers. Amazon Sidewalk, for those unfamiliar, is a network of Amazon Bluetooth devices that's designed to improve the connectivity of devices like the Ring and Amazon Echo. Tile will now be joining Amazon Sidewalk, and through this integration, Amazon Echo and Ring devices will be ...
Top Stories 59 Feature

Top Stories: Epic Games vs. Apple, Hidden AirTag Mode, Apple Music Hi-Fi, Colorful MacBook Air?

Saturday May 8, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
While we wait for the newly introduced iMac, iPad Pro, and Apple TV models to launch later this month, this week saw the kickoff of the big Epic Games v. Apple trial, with lots of juicy tidbits coming out as the two sides make their arguments. This week also saw some rumors about a Hi-Fi tier for Apple Music, more biometric sensing capabilities for Apple Watch, and timing for the...
zoom app icon

Apple Gave Zoom Access to Special API to Use iPad Camera During Split View Multitasking

Sunday May 9, 2021 2:00 am PDT by
Zoom, a hallmark platform used by millions during the global health crisis, has been given access to a special iPadOS API that allows the app to use the iPad camera while the app is in use in Split View multitasking mode. This case of special treatment was first brought to attention by app developer Jeremy Provost, who, in a blog post, explains that Zoom uses a special API that allows the...
snapchat dark mode

Snapchat Rolls Out Dark Mode on iOS

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:17 am PDT by
Nearly two years following the release of iOS and iPadOS 13, which included native, built-in, and systemwide dark mode, Snapchat, one of the world's most prominent social media networks, has finally rolled out a dark mode theme for iOS users. Snapchat began testing a dark mode theme of its app design late last year with a small group of iOS users. Now, Snapchat says that as of this week, it...
tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
iphone 12 preorder purple

Apple Begins Transition to Randomized Serial Numbers With Purple iPhone 12

Wednesday May 5, 2021 9:17 am PDT by
MacRumors previously reported about Apple's plan to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021, and this transition has now started with the new purple iPhone 12 model in multiple countries. With assistance from Aaron Zollo, host of the YouTube channel ZolloTech, we can confirm that the purple iPhone 12 released last month has a new 10-character serial...