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Apple malware that targets Mac OS X and then iOS

7th November 2014

New malware has emerged called WireLurker, which is capable of infecting devices running both Apple’s mobile iOS platform as well as its desktop Mac OS X operating system.

Currently the malware has only infected users in China who were using a popular application marketplace, but that doesn’t mean it can’t spread elsewhere.

Palo Alto Networks, the security company responsible for discovering the malware said this new family, dubbed WireLurker, marks a new era in malware across Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms, representing a potential global threat.

The security company said it is the first known malware family that can infect installed iOS applications similar to how a traditional virus would.

Interestingly it is the first malware that can install third-party applications on non-jailbroken iOS devices. Jailbreaking you device is the process of removing limitations on iOS (Apple's operating system). If you jailbreak your Apple device you are more vulnerable to malware and it voids the manufacturers warranty.

Infection via USB

The malware can also attack an iOS device via USB and is capable of infecting already-installed legitimate apps. Brian Donohue at Kaspersky Lab’s said “The way WireLurker works is that it moves to infect Mac machines by standard infection methods. Then it waits for the user to plug their iOS device into their Mac’s USB port. Once that happens, WireLurker begins installing malicious applications on the iOS device. In particular, it seeks out three popular apps — the Chinese varieties of eBay, PayPal and a popular photo editor. It then uninstalls the legitimate version of those apps and replaces them with malicious ones”.

Kaspersky Lab’s tips for protecting yourself

  • Run an antivirus product and keep it updated.
  • Be careful about charging your iOS device by plugging it into computers other than your own.
  • Check out your OS X “system preferences” then “security and privacy” and set it up so that you only allow downloads from the official App Store.
  • Do NOT download apps from third party marketplaces.
  • Keep iOS and OS X updated.

Read more on the Palo Alto Networks website.

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If you’ve lost money or information or your computer/smartphone has been taken over by a phishing or malware attack report it to Action Fraud.