Apple's Notarization Process Repeatedly Approved Malware for Mac

Apple mistakenly approved and notarized a common kind of malware for macOS on at least two occasions, reports TechCrunch.

bigSur

Apple requires developers to submit their apps for security checks to run on macOS in a process called "notarization." Notarization was required from the launch of macOS Catalina. If software has not been notarized, it will be blocked by default in macOS.

Peter Dantini and security researcher Patrick Wardle at Objective-See report that they have found the first malware for Mac that has been successfully notarized by Apple, even for the latest beta version of macOS Big Sur. The notarized malware was disguised as an Adobe Flash installer, which is an oft-used technique to convince unknowing users to install a trojan.

It contained "Shlayer" malware, which is said to be the "most common threat" to Macs in 2019. Shlayer is a kind of adware that intercepts encrypted web traffic, even from securely-encrypted HTTPS-enabled websites, and replaces it with its own ads to raise fraudulent ad revenue.

The researchers believe that Apple cannot have detected the malicious code when it was submitted for approval. The discovery is particularly surprising, given that the malware and its vehicle are extremely common. Upon notification from the researchers, Apple revoked the notarization.

"Malicious software constantly changes, and Apple's notarization system helps us keep malware off the Mac and allow us to respond quickly when it's discovered. Upon learning of this adware, we revoked the identified variant, disabled the developer account, and revoked the associated certificates. We thank the researchers for their assistance in keeping our users safe," an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In spite of Apple's statement, the researchers reported that the bad actors were able to get yet another malware trojan notarized soon after. The second notarized payloads were still approved by Apple as of yesterday.

Earlier this month, a new kind of Mac malware was discovered that infects via Xcode and supposedly can infiltrate the Mac App Store, undetected by Apple.

Tag: Malware
Related Forum: macOS Big Sur

Top Rated Comments

larrylaffer Avatar
47 months ago
Apple's gatekeeping here must be truly awful. These people disguised their software as coming from one of the world's biggest software vendors, and it still made it through?
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
julesme Avatar
47 months ago
If I never again hear of Flash for the rest of my life, it will still be too soon.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ritsuka Avatar
47 months ago

Just another reason why we should be allowed to install 3rd party apps on iOS with out the App Store. Just because Apple approves the app (I know it’s for macOS in this particular article) doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be safe.
This is a totally different case. "Notarization" is just Apple running an automated malware scan on the apps, it's not a manual review by an actual person.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CarlJ Avatar
47 months ago
An actual real-life notary public doesn’t certify anything about the content of the document you’re signing, they only witness that it was actually you that signed it.

I expected that Apple’s notarization service was primarily designed to associate an app with a developer, and register the pairing with Apple, so that if the app subsequently starting doing something really unsavory in the real world, posing a threat to customers, it could be shut off by Apple.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmaier Avatar
47 months ago

Proof that their notorization is worthless. But it sounds good on paper.
No it's not. Notarization is not malware detection. It ensures that the binary actually came from who it claims to have come from. That's it. Just like a notary public proves that a document was signed by the person who claims to have signed it, and doesn't prove that the contents of the document are true.

This is a weird news article.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BigMcGuire Avatar
47 months ago
Patrick Wardle at Objective-See ('https://objective-see.com/blog/blog_0x4E.html') --- This guy is doing a lot of great work. I run several of his apps. Very cool!
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

iOS 18 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Friday April 12, 2024 11:11 am PDT by
iOS 18 is expected to be the "biggest" update in the iPhone's history. Below, we recap rumored features and changes for the iPhone. iOS 18 is rumored to include new generative AI features for Siri and many apps, and Apple plans to add RCS support to the Messages app for an improved texting experience between iPhones and Android devices. The update is also expected to introduce a more...
iGBA Feature

Game Boy Emulator for iPhone Now Available in App Store Following Rule Change [Removed]

Sunday April 14, 2024 8:06 am PDT by
A week after Apple updated its App Review Guidelines to permit retro game console emulators, a Game Boy emulator for the iPhone called iGBA has appeared in the App Store worldwide. The emulator is already one of the top free apps on the App Store charts. It was not entirely clear if Apple would allow emulators to work with all and any games, but iGBA is able to load any Game Boy ROMs that...
iGBA Feature

Apple Removes Game Boy Emulator iGBA From App Store Due to Spam and Copyright Violations

Sunday April 14, 2024 9:22 pm PDT by
Apple today said it removed Game Boy emulator iGBA from the App Store for violating the company's App Review Guidelines related to spam (section 4.3) and copyright (section 5.2), but it did not provide any specific details. iGBA was a copycat version of developer Riley Testut's open-source GBA4iOS app. The emulator rose to the top of the App Store charts following its release this weekend,...
iOS NES Emulator Bimmy Feature

NES Emulator for iPhone and iPad Now Available on App Store [Removed]

Tuesday April 16, 2024 11:33 am PDT by
The first approved Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) emulator for the iPhone and iPad was made available on the App Store today following Apple's rule change. The emulator is called Bimmy, and it was developed by Tom Salvo. On the App Store, Bimmy is described as a tool for testing and playing public domain/"homebrew" games created for the NES, but the app allows you to load ROMs for any...
iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

Apple's First AI Features in iOS 18 Reportedly Won't Use Cloud Servers

Sunday April 14, 2024 9:52 am PDT by
Apple's first set of new AI features planned for iOS 18 will not rely on cloud servers at all, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. "As the world awaits Apple's big AI unveiling on June 10, it looks like the initial wave of features will work entirely on device," said Gurman, in the Q&A section of his Power On newsletter today. "That means there's no cloud processing component to the...
new best buy blue

Best Buy Opens Up Sitewide Sale With Record Low Prices on M3 MacBook Air, iPad, and Much More

Saturday April 13, 2024 7:41 am PDT by
Best Buy this weekend has a big sale on Apple MacBooks and iPads, including new all-time low prices on the M3 MacBook Air, alongside the best prices we've ever seen on MacBook Pro, iPad, and more. Some of these deals require a My Best Buy Plus or My Best Buy Total membership, which start at $49.99/year. In addition to exclusive access to select discounts, you'll get free 2-day shipping, an...
m3 mbp space black

M4 Macs Are Expected to Launch in This Order Starting Later This Year

Sunday April 14, 2024 10:40 am PDT by
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman recently reported that the first Macs with M4 series chips will be released later this year, with more models to follow next year. In his Power On newsletter today, Gurman shared a more specific roadmap for these Macs. Here is the order in which Gurman expects the Macs to launch:1. A low-end 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M4, coming around the end of 2024. 2. A 24-inch ...
top stories 13apr2024

Top Stories: M4 Mac Roadmap Leaked, New iPads in Second Week of May, and More

Saturday April 13, 2024 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's hardware roadmap was in the news this week, with things hopefully firming up for a launch of updated iPad Pro and iPad Air models next month while we look ahead to the other iPad models and a full lineup of M4-based Macs arriving starting later this year. We also heard some fresh rumors about iOS 18, due to be unveiled at WWDC in a couple of months, while we took a look at how things ...