Earlier this year, researchers from security firm Malwarebytes discovered a piece of Mac malware called Fruitfly that reportedly spied on computers in medical research centers for years before being detected. Apple has since updated macOS to automatically detect the malware, safeguarding users.

macbook air
However, a new variant of the Fruitfly malware has recently been discovered by Patrick Wardle, a researcher with security firm Synack. Wardle said the malware has been targeting Macs for at least five years, with the number of infected Macs totaling nearly 400 and possibly much higher, reports Ars Technica.

The malware can supposedly capture screenshots, keystrokes, webcam images, and other info about each infected Mac. The Fruitfly variant also collects information about devices connected to the same network, according to the report.

Wardle said the method of infection remains unknown, but he suspects it involves tricking users into clicking on malicious links, as opposed to exploiting vulnerabilities in apps or in macOS. He added that the primary command-and-control server used by the malware's creators has since been shut down.

Many of the affected Macs have never been disinfected, however, allowing Wardle to create his own custom command-and-control server for the malware and witness the close to 400 infected machines connect to it.

After analyzing the new variant, Wardle was able to decrypt several backup domains that were hardcoded into the malware. To his surprise, the domains remained available. Within two days of registering one of the addresses, close to 400 infected Macs connected to the server, mostly from homes located in the United States. Although Wardle did nothing more than observe the IP address and user names of Macs that connected to his server, he had the ability to use the malware to spy on the users who were unwittingly infected.

Wardle will provide a briefing about his custom command-and-control server tactics on Wednesday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

Since the method of infection is unknown, there aren't many specific steps users can take to ensure they're protected. But, given all domains known to be associated with the malware are no longer available, and the limited number of Macs infected beforehand, most users shouldn't be too worried about this malware.

One option Mac users have is to install OverSight, a free software tool that monitors a Mac's microphone and webcam, alerting the user when the internal microphone is activated, or whenever a process accesses the webcam.

Wardle has reported all of his findings to law enforcement officials, and the threat is likely neutralized, according to the report.

Tag: Malware

Top Rated Comments

Altis Avatar
89 months ago
Keep operating systems up to date. Exploitation of un-patched vulnerabilties by non-governments is exceedingly rare.

If you don't do security updates as they become available you almost deserve what you get.
That's why security updates should be separate from feature updates.

A lot of people deliberately don't update because of adverse changes to the user experience, leaving security vulnerabilities.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
throAU Avatar
89 months ago
That's why security updates should be separate from feature updates.

A lot of people deliberately don't update because of adverse changes to the user experience, leaving security vulnerabilities.
I get it, but it comes down to this:

Adapt or switch platforms if the user experience changes bother you that much.

No developer is going to support a massive number of platforms with security updates concurrently. They just can't afford to patch old platforms forever. Because every platform means a seperate codebase to maintain and backport/re-develop updates for, beta test, etc.

Apple right now supports 3 (? more?) OS revisions typically (i.e., they do split feature updates and security updates to that degree already), if you haven't dealt with the "user experience" changes after 2-3 new OS revisions, you should be jumping ship to another platform. Just not patching and becoming insecure isn't really a sensible choice.

I'm guessing the big cries from some still go back to the changes made in Lion. It is well beyond time to get over it.

But you'll get the same thing wherever you jump. MS won't support old operating systems forever, and neither will any Linux distribution. No one will.

Adapt, or deal with being insecure.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
throAU Avatar
89 months ago
Keep operating systems up to date. Exploitation of un-patched vulnerabilties by non-governments is exceedingly rare.

If you don't do security updates as they become available you almost deserve what you get.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
OldSchoolMacGuy Avatar
89 months ago
People aren't aware of this? Been around for years.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
convergent Avatar
89 months ago
I wonder how many windows pcs are infected right now?
I would place my guess at zero Windows PCs infected with malware targeting Mac webcams, but I could be wrong. :rolleyes:
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
charlituna Avatar
89 months ago
That's why security updates should be separate from feature updates.

A lot of people deliberately don't update because of adverse changes to the user experience, leaving security vulnerabilities.
with Mac OS they often are
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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