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
123 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
123 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
123 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
123 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
123 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
123 months ago
46% of statistics are made up on the spot.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iCloud General Feature

iCloud+'s New Custom Email Domain Feature Now Available in Beta

Wednesday August 25, 2021 7:48 am PDT by
Starting with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, users with a paid iCloud+ storage plan can personalize their iCloud email address with a custom domain name, such as johnny@appleseed.com, and the feature is now available in beta. iCloud+ subscribers interested in setting up a custom email domain can visit the beta.icloud.com website, select "Account Settings" under their name, and select ...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived last October in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12...
maxresdefault

'Being James Bond' Retrospective Will Be Free to Watch Through Apple TV App

Tuesday August 31, 2021 8:25 am PDT by
Update 9/7/21: "Being James Bond" is now available to watch through the Apple TV app. Ahead of the theatrical release of James Bond film "No Time To Die" on October 8 in the United States, a 45-minute retrospective titled "Being James Bond" will be available to watch for free through the Apple TV app, according to Deadline. The story from MGM is said to feature Daniel Craig reflecting ...
maxresdefault

New MacBook Pro Models Coming at WWDC, Suggests Leaker

Monday May 24, 2021 1:27 pm PDT by
New MacBook Pro models are coming at WWDC, according to leaker Jon Prosser who has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting Apple's plans. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Prosser provided no additional information, but there are new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models in the works. The new MacBook Pros will feature the most radical redesign to the MacBook Pro ...
calculatorapp

iOS 11 Bug: Typing 1+2+3 Quickly in the Calculator App Won't Get You 6

Tuesday October 24, 2017 2:03 pm PDT by
A bug in the built-in Calculator app in iOS 11 is getting some major attention this week, despite the fact that it's been around since iOS 11 was in beta testing. At issue is a calculator animation that causes some symbols to be ignored when calculations are entered in rapid succession. You can try it for yourself: Type 1+2+3 and then the equals sign into the Calculator app quickly. Due to...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
Top Stories 75 Thumbnail

Top Stories: Last-Minute iPhone 13 Rumors, Apple Announces App Store Changes, and More

Saturday September 4, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
The finish line is in sight! Apple's annual iPhone event is likely just a week or so away and all eyes will be on the company as it unveils the next version of its most popular product line. With any luck, we'll also see the next-generation Apple Watch and perhaps even some new AirPods. Other news this week saw Apple making some more changes to its App Store policies in response to a...