Researchers Discover New 'WireLurker' Malware Affecting Macs and iOS Devices in China [Updated]

lightning_usb_cable_0_5_mResearchers from Palo Alto Networks (via The New York Times) have published a research paper on WireLurker, a malware new family that's been infecting both Mac OS and iOS systems over the course of the past six months. The researchers say that WireLurker, which is targeting users in China, "heralds a new era in malware attacking Apple's desktop and mobile platforms."

The WireLurker malware is the "biggest in scale" in the trojanized malware family, and it is able to attack iOS devices through OS X using USB. It's said to be able to infect iOS applications similar to a traditional virus, and it is the first malware capable of installing third-party applications on non-jailbroken iOS devices "through enterprise provisioning."

Thus far, WireLurker has been used in 467 OS X apps in the Maiyadi App Store, which is a third-party Mac app store in China. The apps have been downloaded 356,104 times, infecting hundreds of thousands of users.

According to the researchers, WireLurker looks for iOS devices connected via USB to an infected Mac, installing malicious third-party applications onto the device even without a jailbreak.

WireLurker monitors any iOS device connected via USB with an infected OS X computer and installs downloaded third-party applications or automatically generated malicious applications onto the device, regardless of whether it is jailbroken. This is the reason we call it "wire lurker". Researchers have demonstrated similar methods to attack non-jailbroken devices before; however, this malware combines a number of techniques to successfully realize a new brand of threat to all iOS devices.

WireLurker exhibits complex code structure, multiple component versions, file hiding, code obfuscation and customized encryption to thwart anti-reversing. In this whitepaper, we explain how WireLurker is delivered, the details of its malware progression, and specifics on its operation.

Once installed, WireLurker can collect information from iOS devices like contacts and iMessages, and it's able to request updates from attackers. It's said to be under "active development" with an unclear "ultimate goal."

Palo Alto Neworks offers several recommendations for avoiding apps infected with WireLurker, including an antivirus product and Mac App Store installation restrictions that prevent apps from unknown third parties from being installed. Users should not download and run Mac apps or games from third-parry app stores, download sites, or other untrusted sources and jailbreaking should be avoided.

Unknown enterprise provisioning profiles must be avoided as well, and users should avoid pairing their iOS devices with unknown computers or charging with chargers from untrusted or unknown sources.

Palo Alto Networks has notified Apple of the malware, but an Apple spokesperson declined to offer a comment.

Update: Apple has issued a statement to iMore about the issue:

"We are aware of malicious software available from a download site aimed at users in China," an Apple spokesperson told iMore, "and we've blocked the identified apps to prevent them from launching. As always, we recommend that users download and install software from trusted sources."

Top Rated Comments

mattcha90 Avatar
101 months ago
This is what everyone who always complain about Apple's vice-grip on openness doesn't understand. If you stick with the Apple pre-approved things you're safe 99.99% of the time. It's only when you open yourself to third party apps that you run the risk of malware. It can't exist without you opening the door to it.
Score: 59 Votes (Like | Disagree)
needfx Avatar
101 months ago
applebola




-
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fins831 Avatar
101 months ago
this is why I love the closed environment Apple creates, if the consumer is smart, they will be unaffected 99percent of the time. Walled garden protect me from all the bad stuff please haha
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bbeagle Avatar
101 months ago
Trojan software exists on ALL systems. This is nothing new.

Anyone can write a program on Windows/Unix/OS X to do ANYTHING. That's really the point of personal computers. There is nothing Apple/Microsoft or anyone can do to stop this outside of using their approved app stores where they can take down a malicious app like this.

This article is just iHater bait to people who don't understand how software works. A virus or worm is a different thing. A trojan - can happen to any operating system at any time. A trojan is basically software that says it does one thing then actually does something else. That's what Apple's App Store helps avoid, apps like this. This proves, again, that the Apple closed app store protects users better.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fallenjt Avatar
101 months ago
Thanks, Apple for your closed system and malware free environment. People in China want to get cheap apps or free app and this is their result of being cheap.

----------

This is why I have always been a big fan of the walled garden!:cool::apple:
Not one of my Apple products has suffered any virus attacks.:cool::apple:

mine too. My Mac Mini is on 24/7 since bought in Nov 2011...no attack, virus, malware ever.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Michael Goff Avatar
101 months ago
We gave jobs to them that just a few decades ago china had nothing to offer except fireworks! This is how they repay us in the many cruel ways that they have and the west refuses to wake up to what it's done to themselves! This could all be reversed.

And everyone who moved their business over there did it out of the kindness of their hearts, right?

:rolls eyes:
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Rear Flat MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Predicted to Start With Increased 256GB Storage Alongside Rumored Price Increase

Wednesday August 10, 2022 11:14 am PDT by
Earlier today, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed iPhone 14 Pro models will be more expensive than iPhone 13 Pro models. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing, but he said that the average selling price of all four iPhone 14 models will increase by about 15% overall. While higher prices would be disappointing for customers, it is possible the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will offer increased...
iOS 16 battery percentage

Apple Limiting iOS 16 Beta 5 Battery Percentage Display to Select iPhones: Here Are the Supported Devices

Tuesday August 9, 2022 2:51 am PDT by
Apple this week brought back one of the most highly requested features from iOS users since the launch of the iPhone X in 2017: the ability to see your battery percentage directly in the status bar. Ever since the launch of the iPhone X with the notch, Apple has not allowed users to show their battery percentage directly in the status bar, forcing them to swipe down into Control Center to...
iPhone 14 Pro Lineup Feature Silver

Kuo: Apple to Increase Prices of iPhone 14 Pro Models

Wednesday August 10, 2022 8:22 am PDT by
Apple plans to increase the prices of iPhone 14 Pro models compared to iPhone 13 Pro models, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing for the iPhone 14 Pro models. However, in a tweet today, he estimated that the average selling price of the iPhone 14 lineup as a whole will increase by about 15% compared to the iPhone 13 lineup. In the United States, the iPhone...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and...
battery percentage ios 16

Here's Why the iPhone Battery Status Icon in iOS 16 Is So Controversial

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:34 am PDT by
In the latest iOS 16 beta, Apple has updated the status bar battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the exact percentage remaining rather than just a visual representation of battery level, and while the change has been largely welcomed, some users are unhappy with the way it has been implemented. In iOS 15 and earlier, battery percent has not been present on iPhones that have...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive feature

iPhone 14 Is Just a Few Weeks Away: Three Tips to Prepare for the New iPhone

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:08 am PDT by
The launch of the new iPhone 14 is just a few weeks away, meaning millions of iPhone customers will soon upgrade their existing iPhone or perhaps get an iPhone for the first time. Exclusive MacRumors iPhone 14 Pro renders by graphic designer Ian Zelbo Whether upgrading from an older model or this is your first iPhone, we've rounded up a few tips to help you prepare for the next flagship...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...