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
127 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
127 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
127 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
127 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
127 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
127 months ago
46% of statistics are made up on the spot.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

airpodsinear 1

AirPods Save Woman's Life With Feature Everyone Should Know

Friday January 21, 2022 2:13 am PST by
Apple's AirPods have been credited with saving a woman's life after a potentially fatal fall, People reports. When a 60-year-old florist in New Jersey tripped and hit her head in her studio, she lost consciousness and awoke heavily bleeding. With nobody around to call for help, she realized she had her AirPods in, and used a "Hey Siri" command to call 911. An operator was able to stay on the ...
Upcoming Products 2022 Feature

Gurman: Apple Preparing 'Widest Array of New Hardware Products in Its History' for Fall

Sunday January 23, 2022 10:32 am PST by
Apple is working on a number of new products that are set to launch this fall, and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that it will be "the widest array" of new devices that Apple has introduced in its history. In his latest "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explains that Apple is working on four new flagship iPhones (iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Max, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max), an updated low-end Ma...
Questionable Design Decisions

Apple's Most Questionable Design Decisions in Recent Memory

Sunday January 23, 2022 2:59 am PST by
Apple has always emphasized the depth of thought that goes into the design of its products. In the foreword to Designed by Apple in California, a photo book released by the company in 2016, Jony Ive explains how Apple strives "to define objects that appear effortless" and "so simple, coherent and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative." But every once in a while even Apple...
top stories 2022jan22

Top Stories: Spring Apple Event Rumors, Apple Opposes Sideloading, and More

Saturday January 22, 2022 6:00 am PST by
As we roll into the latter half of January, we're starting to hear more about a potential spring Apple event, which is likely to take place in March or April. There are a number of potential announcements on deck, so an event would be a good opportunity for Apple to get them all out there. We've also been going back and forth on some iPhone 14 rumors, and we've taken a look at a number of...
att gigabit internet

AT&T Bringing $180/Month 5-Gigabit Internet to 70 Cities

Monday January 24, 2022 9:20 am PST by
AT&T today announced the launch of upgraded AT&T Fiber plans, which support speeds of up to 5 Gigabits for some customers. There are two separate plans, one "2 GIG" plan and one "5 GIG" plan, available to new and existing AT&T Fiber subscribers. According to AT&T, the new plans are available to nearly 5.2 million customers across 70 metro areas including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San...
macbook pro 14 16 2021

Three Months After Launch, Apple Still Struggling to Meet Demand for Redesigned 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Monday January 24, 2022 7:12 am PST by
Three months after their launch, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros continue to experience high demand and seemingly short supply, with shipping dates for both models stretching into multiple weeks in several of Apple's key markets. In the United States, the baseline 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip is estimated to ship in three to four weeks, promising an arrival by at least...
peloton tv workout cardio

Apple Floated as Potential Buyer of Peloton

Friday January 21, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Following months of bleak news about Peloton's "precarious state," including the revelation that it has halted production of its bikes and treadmills, Apple is being floated as a potential buyer of Peloton's troubled fitness business. Yesterday, CNBC reported that Peloton will temporarily stop production of its connected fitness products due to a "significant reduction" in consumer demand, a ...
Spring 2022 Apple Products Feature

New iPad Air, Macs, and iPhone SE With 5G Likely to Be Announced at Apple Event This Spring

Thursday January 20, 2022 8:32 am PST by
Earlier this week, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweeted that Apple "will be holding a spring event" to announce a new iPhone SE and other hardware. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said the event is likely to occur in March or April. Gurman did not elaborate on what "other hardware" will be announced at Apple's purported spring event, but rumors suggest at least four products are...