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New AdLoad Malware Circumvents Apple’s XProtect to Infect macOS Devices

 

As part of multiple campaigns detected by cybersecurity firm SentinelOne, a new AdLoad malware strain is infecting Macs bypassing Apple's YARA signature-based XProtect built-in antivirus. 

AdLoad is a widespread trojan that has been aiming at the macOS platform since late 2017 and is used to distribute a variety of malicious payloads, including adware and Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs). This malware can also harvest system information and send it to remote servers managed by its operators. 

According to SentinelOne threat researcher Phil Stokes, these large-scale and continuing attacks began in early November 2020, with a spike in activity commencing in July and early August. 

AdLoad will install a Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) web proxy after infecting a Mac to compromise search engine results and incorporate commercials into online sites for financial benefit. 

It will also acquire longevity on infected Macs by installing LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons, as well as user cronjobs that run every two and a half hours in some circumstances. 

According to SentinelLabs, “When the user logs in, the AdLoad persistence agent will execute a binary hidden in the same user’s ~/Library/Application Support/ folder. That binary follows another deterministic pattern, whereby the child folder in Application Support is prepended with a period and a random string of digits. Within that directory is another directory called /Services/, which in turn contains a minimal application bundle having the same name as the LaunchAgent label. That barebones bundle contains an executable with the same name but without the com. prefix.” 

During the period of this campaign, the researcher witnessed over 220 samples, 150 of which were unique and went unnoticed by Apple's built-in antivirus, despite the fact that XProtect presently comprises of dozen AdLoad signatures. 

Many of the SentinelOne-detected samples are also signed with legitimate Apple-issued Developer ID certificates, while others are attested to operate under default Gatekeeper settings. 

Further, Stokes added, "At the time of writing, XProtect was last updated around June 15th. None of the samples we found are known to XProtect since they do not match any of the scanner’s current set of Adload rules." 

"The fact that hundreds of unique samples of a well-known adware variant have been circulating for at least 10 months and yet remain undetected by Apple’s built-in malware scanner demonstrates the necessity of adding further endpoint security controls to Mac devices." 

To effectively comprehend the significance of this threat, Shlayer's case can be considered which is another common macOS malware strain capable of bypassing XProtect and infecting Macs with other malicious payloads. 

Shlayer recently exploited a macOS zero-day to bypass Apple's File Quarantine, Gatekeeper, and Notarization security checks and download second-stage malicious payloads on compromised Macs. 

Even though these malware strains are just delivering adware and bundleware as secondary payloads, for the time being, their developers can, however, switch to distributing more serious malware at any point. 

Apple’s head of software, under oath, while testifying in the Epic Games vs. Apple trial in May said, "Today, we have a level of malware on the Mac that we don’t find acceptable and that is much worse than iOS."

Pegasus: The Case of the Infamous Spyware

 

The case of the infamous spyware Pegasus has taken the world by storm, with news revealing its unlawful use infringing on many people's basic human rights. With such remote surveillance now accessible via an infected device, the issue of cybersecurity has grown more pressing than ever. According to sources from throughout the world, NSO Group's software was used to spy on around 50,000 people, including politicians, businessmen, journalists, and activists. 

Dmitry Galov, a security researcher at Kaspersky's GReAT, describes the Pegasus spyware's beginnings and how it differs from vulnerabilities. “Pegasus is a spyware with versions for both iOS and Android devices,” he explains. Even in 2017, the criminal had the ability to “read the victim's SMS and emails, listen to calls, take screenshots, record keystrokes, and access contacts and browser history, among other things.” To clarify, Galov argues that Pegasus is a sophisticated and costly malware. It was created with the intent of spying on people of particular interest. As a result, the typical user is unlikely to be a target. 

However, the spyware's sophistication makes it one of the most powerful tools for spying on one's smartphone. Pegasus has evolved over time to attack a number of zero-day vulnerabilities in Android and iOS. Although it tries to remove its own traces from an infected device, some of them can still be seen under forensic examination. According to Galov, many parties on the darknet can sell and buy malware as well as zero-day vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities can cost up to $2.5 million - that's how much the whole chain of Android vulnerabilities was offered for, in 2019. 

Amnesty International researchers have created a toolkit that can assist consumers to determine whether their phone has been infected with spyware. The open-source toolkit has been made accessible on GitHub by Amnesty International. Users must first download and install a python package from the MVT (Mobile Verification Toolkit) website's documentation. It also contains advice on how to complete the procedure on both iOS and Android. Users must take a backup of their iOS device before launching MVT. 

According to Amnesty International, the goal of MVT is to make it easier to conduct a "consensual forensic study" of devices belonging to people who may be the victims of sophisticated mobile spyware attacks. “We do not want MVT to enable privacy violations of non-consenting individuals,” Amnesty said. “Therefore, the goal of this license is to prohibit the use of MVT (and any other software licensed the same) for the purpose of adversarial forensics.”

Low-Risk iOS Wi-Fi Naming Issue can Compromise iPhones Remotely

 

According to recent research, the Wi-Fi network name issue that entirely disabled an iPhone's network connectivity had remote code execution capabilities and was discreetly patched by Apple earlier this year. 

On Monday, Apple released iOS 14.7 for iPhones, which includes bug fixes and security improvements as well as a remedy for the Wi-Fi denial-of-service issue. However, the company has not yet provided security information that may suggest whether its vulnerability has been fixed. 

The denial-of-service vulnerability, which was discovered last month, was caused by the way iOS managed string formats associated with the SSID input, causing any up-to-date iPhone to crash when connected to wireless access points with percent symbols in their names, such as "%p%s%s%s%s%n." 

While the problem could be solved by resetting the network settings (Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings), Apple is likely to provide a fix in iOS 14.7, which is currently accessible to developers and public beta testers. 

Researchers from mobile security automation business ZecOps discovered that the same flaw could be abused to accomplish remote code execution (RCE) on targeted devices by simply adding the string pattern " % @" to the Wi-Fi hotspot's name, which may have had far-reaching repercussions. 

The issue was termed "WiFiDemon" by ZecOps. It's also a zero-click vulnerability as it allows a threat actor to infect a device without needing user interaction, however, it does necessitate that the setting to automatically connect Wi-Fi networks is enabled (which it is, by default). 

"As long as the Wi-Fi is turned on this vulnerability can be triggered," the researchers noted. "If the user is connected to an existing Wi-Fi network, an attacker can launch another attack to disconnect/de-associate the device and then launch this zero-click attack." 

"This zero-click vulnerability is powerful: if the malicious access point has password protection and the user never joins the Wi-Fi, nothing will be saved to the disk," the company stated. "

After turning off the malicious access point, the user's Wi-Fi function will be normal. A user could hardly notice if they have been attacked.

The RCE variant was discovered to be exploitable in all iOS versions before iOS 14.3, with Apple "silently" fixing the problem in January 2021 as part of their iOS 14.4 release. The vulnerability was not issued a CVE identifier. 

Given the vulnerability's exploitability, iPhone and iPad owners must update to the most recent iOS version to reduce the risk associated with the flaw.

Tim Cook Claims Android has 47 Times the Amount of Malware as iOS

 

During a live chat, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that Android has more malware than iOS and that "sideloading" mobile software is not in the "best interests of users." Sideloading apps entails manually downloading and installing software over the Internet rather than from an app store. Apple's security and privacy would be ruined if it were compelled to enable side-loading programmes, as Android does, he stated on June 16 while speaking remotely at the VivaTech 2021 conference in Paris, France. 

When asked about the planned European law known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which attempts to prohibit big digital corporations from monopolizing their market position, Cook stated that Apple opposes it because it would require the company to allow consumers to install apps outside of the App Store. Cook also stated that Android has "47 times more malware" than Apple since iOS is created with a single app store. 

Explaining the reason, Cook added, "It's because we've designed iOS in such a way that there's one app store and all of the apps are reviewed prior to going on the store. And so that keeps a lot of this malware stuff out of our ecosystem, and customers have told us very continuously how much they value that, and so we're going to be standing up for the user in the discussions." 

Cook further claimed that the DMA's present language, which will compel side-loading on the iPhone, will "destroy the security" of the smartphone and many of the App Store's privacy measures. 

DMA targets firms with a huge user base, such as Apple, Google, and Amazon, and encourages them to open up their platforms to competitors. The proposed rule also intends to provide a more level playing field for businesses and individuals who rely on large "gatekeeper" online platforms to sell their goods and services in a single market. 

“We've been focusing on privacy for over a decade,” Cook stated when asked about Apple's commitment to privacy. “We see it as a basic human right. A fundamental human right. And we've been focused on privacy for decades. Steve used to say privacy was stating in plain language what people are signing up for and getting their permission. And that permission should be asked repeatedly. We've always tried to live up to that.”

Is Apple's Monopoly Making Its Security Vulnerable?


It's a well-known fact that Apple’s devices are undoubtedly way safer than any other company’s products, however, in recent research analysis, many reports claimed it to be a myth. 

According to the experts, Apple’s complex process of downloading apps has created a notion of added security but seemingly such is not the case, as revealed in deeper examinations. 

Reportedly, around 2% of the top-grossing iOS apps, are in some way, scams. Customers of several VPN apps, which protect users’ data, have complained against Apple App Store – saying that their devices are contaminated by a virus that tricks them to download and pay for software that they don’t need. 

An illegal QR code reader app that remains for a week on the store tricks users into paying $4.99. Moreover, some apps even mock themselves as being from big global organizations such as Amazon and Samsung. 

Apple always maintained its exclusive command on the App Store and describes this as its policy which is essential for customer’s sensitive personal credentials. Apple has a monopoly in the App market in terms of customer trust. However, some analysts said that this is indeed the biggest problem that there is no competition against this giant in the market, if some companies will come with alternatives then– as a matter of fact – Apple will invest more money in strengthening their security measures. 

“If consumers were to have access to alternative app stores or other methods of distributing software, Apple would be a lot more likely to take this problem more seriously,” said Stan Miles, an economics professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada. 

As per the statistics, that Apple generates huge profit from the App store; around 30 percent of its revenue is constituted by the App store. 

Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz said in a statement that, “We hold developers to high standards to keep the App Store a safe and trusted place for customers to download software, and we will always take action against apps that pose a harm to users…” 

“…Apple leads the industry with practices that put the safety of our customers first, and we’ll continue learning, evolving our practices, and investing the necessary resources to make sure customers are presented with the very best experience.”

167 Fake iOS & Android Trading Apps Brought to Light by Researchers

 

Sophos, a worldwide leader in cybersecurity, has found 167 fake Android and iOS apps that criminals have been using to rob people who still believe they have a very well, trustworthy financial trading, banking, or cryptocurrency application. A research article titled, ‘Fake Android and iOS apps disguised as trading and cryptocurrency apps,’ illustrates how criminals utilized social technology, fake web pages like a fake iOS App Slot, and an iOS app tester to deliver the fake apps to unsuspecting customers. 

Fake applications were investigated and the results showed that all were very similar to each other, as stated by Sophos researchers. Many have included the "chat" option to integrate customer service. When researchers attempt to communicate by using chat with support teams, answers were almost alike. They also discovered a single server loaded with 167 counterfeit trading and cryptocurrency applications. In combination, this indicates that, according to Sophos, all fraud might be carried out by the same party. 

In one of the scenarios examined, the scammers approached the customers through a dating app by creating a profile and exchanging messages with specific objectives before attempting to encourage them to download and add money and cryptocurrency to a counterfeit application. The attackers blocked access when their targets later tried to withdraw funds or close the account. 

In other instances, websites built to resemble a reputable company, such as a bank, have been able to attract the targets. To persuade the users to install an app from the genuine App Store, they have even developed a fake "iOS App Store" download page with fabricated customer reviews. 

When the visitors pressed upon the links to install fake apps for Android or iOS, something like a smartphone web app was obtained but was only a shortcut icon connected to a fake website. 

Technicians have also delivered fake iOS applications via third-party websites to encourage developers towards testing new applications with a small number of Apple device users before applying to the official App Store. 

“People trust the brands and people they know – or think they know – and the operators behind these fake trading and cryptocurrency scams ruthlessly take advantage of that,” said Jagadeesh Chandraiah, a senior threat researcher at Sophos. “The fake applications we uncovered impersonate popular and trusted financial apps from all over the world, while the dating site sting begins with a friendly exchange of messages to build trust before the target is asked to install a fake app. Such tactics make the fraud seem very believable.”

“To avoid falling prey to such malicious apps, users should only install apps from trusted sources such as Google Play and Apple’s app store. Developers of popular apps often have a website, which directs users to the genuine app and, if they have the skills to do so, users should verify if the app they are about to install was created by its actual developer. Last, but not least, if something seems risky or too good to be true – high returns on investment or someone from a dating site asking you to transfer money or cryptocurrency assets into some ‘great’ account – then sadly it probably is,” he further added.

Sophos also recommends the user install an anti-virus program on the mobile device to defend Android and iOS devices from cyber attacks, like the Intercept X for Mobile.

'XcodeGhost' Malware Infected Around 128M iOS Users

 

In a recent malware attack over 128 million iOS customers have been targeted. The malware employed by the attackers goes by the name "XcodeGhost" which first came into the public domain in 2015. This attack is responsible for injecting malware into several Apple devices' app stores including iPhone and iPad apps that were subsequently uploaded to the App Store. 

During the Epic Games vs Apple trial, the internal Apple emails have warned that almost 128 million users downloaded approximately 2,500 apps that were infected by the malware which came into existence from the fake copy of Xcode. 

While Motherboard has also reported on the same issue saying over 2,500 infected apps have been downloaded over 203 million times in the App Store. 

Some employer has disclosed that around 55 percent users are Chinese and also 66 percent of downloads relates to China. According to the report, many developers have downloaded the infected Xcode as Apple’s servers were slow, hence they were looking for alternative download links. 

Notably, some of the widely popular apps have also been infected by this malware, including the game ‘Angry Birds 2′. 

When the malware was identified, Apple suggested developers immediately revise their apps with a legal version of Xcode, the report added. 

In the wake of the security incident, Apple has taken several security measures to fix the attack including malware scanning and the security of the Xcode execution process while submitting apps to the App Store. As the legal battle was going on between Apple and Epic Games in the USA this week, new technical details have surfaced, disclosing that Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney had suggested Apple CEO Tim Cook open their devices to other app stores as early as 2015. 

Apple's AirDrop Comes with a Security Flaw

 

Due to its intriguing features, the much-hyped announcement of AirDrop at the Apple event drew a lot of attention. However, it has recently been discovered that AirDrop has a security loophole that allows users to see personal information such as email addresses and phone numbers. This may result in a data leak affecting over 1.5 billion Apple users, as well as other security concerns. 

According to a study citing researchers from Germany's Technische Universitat Darmstadt, everyone can reach Apple users' email addresses and phone numbers, even if they are strangers, by simply opening the sharing pane on the smartphone and initiating the sharing process. A secure Wi-Fi link and proximity between the two Apple devices are needed to complete this task. 

The researchers discovered a flaw in the Contacts Only setting. You use the iOS Sharing function and choose AirDrop as the method to share a file with anyone via AirDrop. If the other person's AirDrop is set to Contacts Only, Apple must check to see if you're on their contact list. The corporation does this by comparing the contact number and email address to entries in the other person's address book. 

Apple uses a hashing feature to obfuscate your phone number and email address during this process to keep it secure. However, university researchers have already found that this hashing would not effectively preserve the data's privacy. 

“As an attacker, it is possible to learn the phone numbers and email addresses of AirDrop users—even as a complete stranger," the researchers said in the report. "All they require is a Wi-Fi-capable device and physical proximity to a target that initiates the discovery process by opening the sharing pane on an iOS or macOS device.”

The researchers said they developed their own approach, called "PrivateDrop," to replace the insecure AirDrop design. Without needing to swap the insecure hash values, PrivateDrop can easily and safely verify whether you're in a fellow iPhone user's contact list using optimised cryptographic protocols. PrivateDrop is available for third-party review on GitHub.

For the time being, the researchers recommend that users disable AirDrop. To do so on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings, General, and then press the AirDrop entry. Select Receiving Off from the drop-down menu.

CERT-In Issues "High" Severity Rating Advisory for WhatsApp Threats

 

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has cautioned WhatsApp clients in India of various vulnerabilities it identified in the instant messaging platform, which could lead to a breach of sensitive client information and personal information. In a "high" severity rating advisory, the CERT-In said that the vulnerabilities had been recognized in specific versions of WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business for both Android and iOS platforms. 

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is an office inside the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India. It is the nodal agency to deal with cybersecurity threats like hacking and phishing. It strengthens the security-related defense of the Indian Internet domain. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was endorsed in May 2016 between the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) and the Ministry of Cabinet Office, UK.

With the MoUs, participating nations can trade technical data on Cyber assaults, respond to cybersecurity incidents, and discover solutions to counter the cyber assaults. They can likewise trade data on predominant cybersecurity policies and best practices. The MoUs help to strengthen the cyberspace of signing countries, capacity building and improving relationships between them. 

"Multiple vulnerabilities have been reported in WhatsApp applications which could allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code or access sensitive information on a targeted system," the advisory said. Describing the risk in detail, it said that these vulnerabilities "exist in WhatsApp applications due to a cache configuration issue and missing bounds check within the audio decoding pipeline." 

"Successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities could allow the attacker to execute arbitrary code or access sensitive information on a targeted system," it said. 

To forestall the danger, the government’s cybersecurity agency has requested that clients update their WhatsApp on Android and iOS to the most recent versions. This isn't the first occasion when that CERT-In has given a "high" severity rating advisory, cautioning clients of the presence of various vulnerabilities in the instant messaging platform.

In November 2019, CERT-In had cautioned WhatsApp clients about a buffer overflow vulnerability with the platform, which permitted an assailant to remotely target a system by sending a specially crafted MP4 audio or video file. The CERT-In had then cautioned that successful exploitation of this vulnerability would permit an attacker to cause remote code execution or denial of service condition for the clients.

Fleeceware apps earned over $400 million on Android and iOS

 

Researchers at Avast have found an aggregate of 204 fleece ware applications with over a billion downloads and more than $400 million in revenue on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The purpose of these applications is to bring clients into a free trial to "test" the application, after which they overcharge them through subscriptions which sometimes run as high as $3,432 each year. These applications have no unique functionality and are only conduits for fleece ware scams. Avast has reported the fleece ware applications to both Apple and Google for audit.

Fleece ware is a recently coined term that alludes to a mobile application that accompanies extreme subscription fees. Most applications incorporate a short free trial to attract the client. The application exploits clients who are inexperienced with how subscriptions work on cell phones, implying that clients can be charged even after they've erased the offending application.

The fleece ware applications found comprise predominantly of musical instrument apps, palm readers, image editors, camera filters, fortune tellers, QR code and PDF readers, and ‘slime simulators’. While the applications for the most part satisfy their expected purpose, it is far-fetched that a client would purposely want to pay such a significant recurring fee for these applications, particularly when there are less expensive or even free options available. 

It creates the impression that part of the fleece ware strategy is to target more youthful crowds through playful themes and catchy ads on famous social networks with guarantees of ‘free installation’ or ‘free to download’. The information is alarming: with almost a billion downloads and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, this model is drawing in more developers and there is proof to recommend a few famous existing applications have updated to incorporate the free trial subscription with high recurring fees.

Regardless of whether a client erases the application after they notice outgoing payments, this doesn't mean their subscription stops - which permits the developer to cash in further. Google and Apple are not answerable for refunds after a specific time-frame, and keeping in mind that the organizations may decide to refund as a goodwill gesture in some cases however they are not obliged to do so. Along these lines, the lone choices might be to attempt to contact developers directly or to demand a bank chargeback.

Hackers used 11 Zero-Days to Attack Windows, iOS, Android Users

 

Malware trackers at Google keep on pointing out a complex APT group that burned through at least 11 zero-days exploits in less than a year to conduct mass spying across a range of platforms and gadgets. The group has effectively utilized "watering hole" assaults to divert explicit targets to a couple of exploit servers conveying malware on Windows, iOS, and Android gadgets. 

The cross-platform capacities and the readiness to utilize almost a dozen zero-days in under a year signals a well-resourced threat actor with the ability to access hacking tools and exploits from related groups. In another blog post, Google Project Zero researcher Maddie Stone released additional details on the exploit chains found in the wild last October and cautioned that the most recent disclosure is attached to a February 2020 campaign that incorporated the utilization of multiple zero-days. As per Stone, the threat actor from the February 2020 campaign went dark for a couple of months but returned in October with dozens of websites redirecting to an exploit server. 

“Once our analysis began, we discovered links to a second exploit server on the same website. After initial fingerprinting (appearing to be based on the origin of the IP address and the user-agent), an iframe was injected into the website pointing to one of the two exploit servers. In our testing, both of the exploit servers existed on all of the discovered domains,” Stone explained. 

The first exploit server at first reacted distinctly to Apple iOS and Microsoft Windows user-agents and was active for at least a week after Google's researchers began recovering the hacking devices. This server included exploits for a distant code execution bug in the Google Chrome rendering engine and a v8 zero-day after the underlying bug was fixed. Stone said the first server momentarily reacted to Android user-agents, proposing exploits existed for every one of the significant platforms.

Stone noticed that the assailants utilized a special obfuscation and anti-analysis check on iOS gadgets where those exploits were encrypted with ephemeral keys, “meaning that the exploits couldn't be recovered from the packet dump alone, instead of requiring an active MITM on our side to rewrite the exploit on-the-fly.”

A Bug in iPhone Call Recording App Exposed Clients Data

 

A security vulnerability in a famous iPhone call recording application exposed thousands of users' recorded conversations. The flaw was found by Anand Prakash, a security researcher and founder of PingSafe AI, who tracked down that the aptly named Automatic Call Recorder application permitted anybody to access the call recordings from different clients — by knowing their phone number. 
 This application can track and record calls without an internet connection and can alter the voices of recordings, upload them to Dropbox, Google Drive, or One Drive, and also can translate in up to 50 dialects. All the client information gets stored in the company’s cloud storage on Amazon web services. This cloud storage has somewhere around 130,000 audio recordings that make up almost 300 GB. 

 Security circumstances like this are disastrous. Alongside affecting client's security, these issues likewise debilitate the organization's image and give an additional benefit to the contenders, said Anand Prakash. “This wasn’t just a violation of data privacy but also affected the users physically and at cyber risk, if their recorded conversations carry sensitive personal information. App makers that go wrong in investing in their cybersecurity must accept that the fines they could face for non-compliance with data privacy laws are extremely expensive – not to mention the cost of losing their customers' trust” he added. 

The bug was detected by Anand Prakash on the 27th of the last month when he was able to modify the web traffic and supplant the enlisted telephone number with someone else's number utilizing a proxy site called Burp, which gave him admittance to that person's call records and details. Fortunately, the bug was fixed by Saturday, March 6th, and the glitch-free version was launched in the Apple App Store. 

The call recorder clients were advised to uninstall the previous variant and download the latest rendition that is 2.26 or newer which is accessible on the Apple App Store. The paid variant is $6.99 for 7 days; additionally, they allow a three-day trial period. Their most basic monthly membership costs $14.99, with a 12 months advance, and has a few other options as well.

Malware Affecting Apple’s New M1 Chip Detected by Researchers

 

MAC malware has relatively been a less popular choice than its equivalents for Windows attacks, but the vulnerability to Apple computers has been more prevalent in the last few years. There are adware and even Mac-customized malware, and attackers still try to bypass Apple's new protections. Hackers have now made their debut in malware programmed to run Apple's latest M1 ARM processors, launched in November for MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini. 

Apple's M1 chip is a divergence since 2005 from the Intel x86 architecture, which provides Apple a chance to bake some Mac security safeguards and functionality directly to its processors. This transition allowed legitimate developers to create the software version that runs on M1 "natively" and does not require translating via an Apple emulator named Rosetta 2. 

As per a blog published on 14th February by Mac security researcher Patrick Wardle, a Safari adware extension, originally written for Intel x86 chips, was modified to operate on new M1 chips. The malicious GoSearch22 extension has been traced to the Pirrit Mac adware family, according to Wardle. 

Researchers from the Red Canary along with the Pirrit Mac adware have written a blog on another strain of malware – Silver Sparrow – which varies from the one detected by Wardle. Although Silver Sparrow has not yet released malicious packages, the Red Canary researchers have confirmed that they are able to discharge malicious payloads at a time. Silver Sparrow compromised 29,139 macOS endpoints, including the high identification volumes in the U.S.A., the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Germany, on February 17 in 153 countries, based on data from Malwarebytes given to Red Canary.

Kevin Dunne -President of Greenlight, said malware developers' capability to reverse engineer the M1 chip is only three months. Although the malware only has a minimum footprint, Dunne said that it will likely grow with time to harness more vectors of attack. 

“Once bad actors have control of the physical device, they can use that device as an access point to the networks that machine is connected to, either physically or via VPN,” Dunne said. “This reinforces the need for additional protection at the application layer, to constantly assess activity within those applications for unusual behaviour and mitigate potential risks in real time.”

Malware manufacturers and dealers are developing advanced devices and software with the way they produce and sell them, and so are the legal businesses, Jon Gulley, a security test application at nVisium added. 

For now, researchers have found that the native M1 malware doesn't appear to be an incredibly dangerous threat. However, the advent of these new strains is a sign of the future and of the need for detective devices to close the void.

Trend Micro Detects Vulnerabilities in The SHAREit Program

 

In the SHAREit program, Trend Micro has found several vulnerabilities. The bugs may be exploited by extracting sensitive data from users, and by using malicious code or programs to run arbitrary code with the ShareIt permissions. It can also contribute to remote execution code (RCE). In the past, the software was often associated with bugs that used to download and abuse users' files. While the app allows for the upload and update of file types like the Android Package (APK), there are most definitely accidentally unconsidered bugs correlated with these functions. 

SHAREit is one of the best-known applications in the Google Play Store. Users can download and distribute files and share them with others using this app. SHAREit was also one of 60 Chinese apps barred late last year in India. Notably, more than one billion times the Android application has been downloaded. 

The vulnerabilities can be used to execute malicious code for the SHAREit program on smartphones. The key cause of safety deficiencies is the lack of appropriate controls on who can access the code of the program.

Echo Duan, a mobile threats analyst for security firm Trend Micro, reported that malicious applications installed on a computer and user or attackers executing a personal network attack can be able to distribute malicious instructions to the SHAREit app and hijack its legal code-execution functionality, override local files on the app, or install applications from third parties without user knowledge.

The app is also susceptible to so-called Man-in-the-Disk Attacks, a form of vulnerability first identified by Check Point in 2018 that focuses on uncertain storage of insecure app assets in the storage capacity of the phone shared with other applications [in which attackers can erase, edit, or substitute them]. 

"We reported these vulnerabilities to the vendor, who has not responded yet," Duan said today. "We decided to disclose our research three months after reporting this since many users might be affected by this attack because the attacker can steal sensitive data," he added, it will also be impossible to track attacks from the viewpoint of a defender.

On their website, SHAREit developers say that 1.8 billion people in over 200 countries around the world use their software. The iOS app for SHAREit does not have any influence on it and runs on another codebase. Though the software was last updated in its Play Store list on February 9, 2021, a fix for revealed vulnerabilities has been not listed in the update's changelog. At the time of publication, the software is still usable for download.

For software makers, businesses, and consumers alike, security should be a top priority. Trend Micro suggests that operating devices and applications themselves should be frequently upgraded and modified for secure mobile app use.

Apple iCloud Outage Caused Setup Issues and Account Activation Failures


On December 25th, Apple users started facing issues in iCloud sign-in in the early morning. The outage that lasted for around 24 hours prevented users from setting up new Apple gadgets and devices; users experienced problems in the activation of Apple Watch, HomePod, iPhone along with several other devices. Reportedly, the problem was caused by an unspecified problem that occurred in Apple's iCloud backend. However, it was only a matter of a day before Apple resolved the issue by the evening of December 26th. 

The problem surfaced around 5 a.m. on the day of Christmas, making users wait longer than usual to relish the experience of their Apple product for Christmas. On Friday, while replying to a supposedly eager customer, Apple's support team tweeted acknowledging the customer's eagerness and indicating that the iCloud outage that lasted until Saturday was a result of the heightened demand experienced by the company.  

"We know your mom is eager to have everything working and appreciate you helping to set them up. We are experiencing a high capacity at this time which is impacting your ability to set up iCloud, please try back in a couple of hours," the tweet read. 

A lot of users upon noting the unusually long waiting time, some for as long as 32 hours and device activation failures reported the same on Twitter, while others said to have faced complete activation failures.  

Furthermore, certain users facing similar troubles reported their problem at forums.macrumors.com, "I realize it's Christmas morning and Apple's activation servers are probably on overload, but this still seems unnecessarily frustrating," BeatCrazy wrote.  

While explaining the issue in-depth, BeatCrazy further told, " I'm able to start the pairing process using my iPhone, sign into their Apple IDs with their passwords, but I keep getting hung when Apple wants me to enter the passcode of another device. I'm given options like their iPad passcodes, or one of my Macs. After entering any of these, the watch spins for about 2 minutes and I get the error "Verification Failed - There was an error verifying the passcode of your (or insert family member name here) iPhone (or insert iPad/Mac)." Apple gives me a choice to "reset encrypted data", which I take as an offer to destroy all their existing Apple ID passwords and data - not a good option IMO."  

Seemingly, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the year's wrap and the holiday season is busier than usual for Apple, which delayed the release of its newest iPhone 12 series by a month.

iPhones of Al Jazeera Journalists Being Snooped On Via Israeli Firm's Spyware

 

iPhones of around 36 Journalists at Al Jazeera news organisation have been hacked by nation-sponsored hackers who sent malware laden iMessages. The attackers who are suspected to be backed by the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, exploited a zero-day vulnerability in iMessage which was later fixed by Apple. 

In a technical report, experts have stated that the Journalists' iPhones were snooped on by attackers who employed NSO's Pegasus software to deploy spyware onto the iPhones of 36 journalists, executives and producers at the news agency, Al Jazeera. 

Pegasus is a modular malware developed by the Israeli firm NSO which is used for surveillance purposes and has also been linked to surveillance abuse at multiple occasions. The spyware allows hosts to remotely monitor and exploit devices. Reportedly, the attack took place invisibly and it didn't require the attackers to trick the victims into clicking on a malicious link – as opposed to conventional ways of deploying malware. 

While examining one of the victim's device, researchers discovered that spyware was deployed secretly through iMessage and was able to take images using iPhone's camera, access passwords, and victim's location. Besides, it's likely that the spyware was also recording phone calls and microphone.  

As per the researchers at Citizen Lab, a total of four operators belonging to Pegasus were observed to have assisted the hack. Two of the operators namely SNEAKY KESTREL and MONARCHY are suspected to be having links with the governments of Middle Eastern countries; to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, respectively.  

According to the reports by Citizen Lab, "In July and August 2020, government operatives used NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to hack 36 personal phones belonging to journalists, producers, anchors, and executives at Al Jazeera. The personal phone of a journalist at London-based Al Araby TV was also hacked." 

"The phones were compromised using an exploit chain that we call KISMET, which appears to involve an invisible zero-click exploit in iMessage. In July 2020, KISMET was a zero-day against at least iOS 13.5.1 and could hack Apple’s then-latest iPhone 11." 

"We do not believe that KISMET works against iOS 14 and above, which includes new security protections. All iOS device owners should immediately update to the latest version of the operating system," the report further read.

Hackers Use Bugs To Attack iOS and Android Devices; Google Doesn't Disclose Details

 

Google's cybersecurity team found a cluster of high-end vulnerabilities in iOS, Windows, Android, and Chrome earlier this week. According to Google, these vulnerabilities were in high usage, which means hackers used them to carry out attacks. It is an alarming issue for cybersecurity. Besides this, the vulnerabilities share some similarities, says Motherboard. One can assume that the same cybercriminals exploited them. According to cybersecurity findings, few vulnerabilities hid in font libraries, few in chrome's sandbox to escape, and others controlled the systems. 

It means that the bugs belonged to a string of vulnerabilities used to attack user's devices. As of now, there's no concrete information about who the hacker is and their targets. Usually, whenever bugs are found, it is ethically disclosed to release security patches to fix the issue, before the hackers can exploit them. However, in the current case, it is confirmed that the hackers are using the bugs. In 2019, in a quite similar incident, google had found a string of vulnerabilities that hackers used to attack the Uighur community. In China, the government conducts a massive scale campaign of surveillance and monitoring on the Muslim community. 

Vice reports, "according to a source with knowledge of the vulnerabilities, all these seven bugs are related to each other, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not allowed to talk to the press." However, the experts don't have any information on the present situation, as Google hasn't disclosed anything about the vulnerabilities, the hackers, or the targets. Fortunately, Apple released iOS 12 (released in 2018) security patch, which can fix Apple devices up to the iPhone 5 series. 

It so happens that when a company releases a security patch that fixes old machines, it generally means that the bug is highly dangerous. Still, we can only assume, as no data is available. "In any case, some of these bugs were very critical and gave hackers a lot of power when they used them. The iOS bugs, for example, were so dangerous that Apple pushed updates not just for the current iOS 14, but also for the older, not usually supported, iOS 12," reports the Vice.

WhatsApp to Allow Users to Sync Chat Between iOS and Android


When switching devices from Android to iOS or the other way round, users were not able to retain the chat histories despite the backup option as WhatsApp didn’t provide a means to synchronize chat histories between the two platforms. Although, for the iOS users the chat histories are backed up on the iCloud and similarly, for Android, Google’s cloud gets the work done as long as the platform remains unchanged, having a method to drag the backup to a new platform would add a lot more convenience to both the universes.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been working on a new feature aiming to resolve the issue pertaining to the syncing of chats across platforms; the company is planning to come up with a functionality that will allow users to use a single phone number, i.e., one account on multiple devices, as per the sources.

Reports suggest that WhatsApp could allow users to use a single account on four different devices simultaneously. However, as per the idea revolving around this new feature, a Wi-Fi facility will become a must for users as a lot of data will be required for the uploading and downloading of all the multimedia along with the messages, while syncing the chat histories between devices.

Notably, the development came in the wake of users' complaints and demand regarding being able to use one account on multiple devices. Once WhatsApp will securely copy the chat history to the other device, users will finally be able to use their account from it. During the process, the encryption keys will be changed and all active chats will be notified about the same.

Referencing from the report by WABetainfo, “When the user wants to use WhatsApp on a second device, there is the need to copy the chat history. In this case, WhatsApp always requires a Wi-Fi connection, because it may use a large amount of your data plan,”

“Note that any message will be delivered to all your family devices, so your chat history will be always synced across platforms, and when you use or remove a device, your encryption key changes,”

“In this case, WhatsApp Desktop was used for the test, but it will work on a second mobile device too, but it’s really possible that WhatsApp will allow mobile devices to be connected to your main device later than WhatsApp Desktop. Note that, using this feature, an Internet connection on your device will no longer be needed to use WhatsApp Desktop,” read the report. 

The UK Government Vs Apple & Google API on the New COVID-19 App That Tells Who Near You is Infected!



Reportedly, the United Kingdom declared that their coronavirus tracing application is being run via centralized British servers and that’s how they are planning to take things forward and not via the usual “Apple-Google approach” which is a preferred one for most.

Per sources, the CEO of the Tech unit of the National Health Service mentioned that their new smartphone app will have its launching in the upcoming weeks, with the hopes of helping the country return to normalcy by beating coronavirus.

According to reports, the UK government believes that the contact-tracing protocol created by Apple and Google protects user privacy “under advertisement only”. Hence the British health service supports a system that would send the data of who may have the virus to a centralized server giving all the controls in the hand of the NHS.

The way of the NHS and that of Apple and Google, work via Bluetooth by putting a cell-phone on the wireless network, having it emit an electronic ID that could be intercepted by other phones in the vicinity. If a person tests positive for COVID-19 their ID would be used to warn the others near them.

Meaning, if you were near an affected person, your phone would show flags about their being infected, you’d be notified about it and if you may have caught the novel coronavirus you’d be alerted about that too, mention sources.

Per reports, Google and Apple especially had created an opt-in pro-privacy API for Android and iOS. The feature allows the user’s phone to change its ID on other phones near them and store it across different intervals of time.

Per sources, if a person is discovered to have COVID-19 they can allow the release of their phone’s ID to a decentralized set of databases looked over by healthcare providers and the nearby users would be notified about it.

The above-mentioned approach works best to help ensure that the users aren’t tracked by exploiting the above information. Google and Apple say that their protocol would make it next to impossible for them, the governments, and mal-actors to track people. The data wouldn’t leave the user’s phone unless they want it to, that too anonymously if and when.


A person, to declare themselves infected must enter a specific code from a healthcare provider after being tested positive which is a great way to curb fraudulent announcements about being infected.

The NHS, on the other hand, thought of proposing a centralized approach that makes the government, the party that has the coronavirus related details of all the users on their database for further analysis.

Per sources, for this application to be successful 60% of a population would have to download it and opt for it. Trust plays a major role here, if the users don’t trust the app it would be of no use to others either.

Reports mention that most countries prefer the Google and Apple method better, including Switzerland, Austria, and Estonia. Germany too is in strong support of a decentralized line whereas France had to face criticism for its inclination towards the centralized approach.

Nevertheless, the NHS is hell-bent on going forward with the centralized approach and is adamant that it will safeguard the privacy of people no matter what. In the centralized way of things, the NHS would capture all the IDs of phones with the app active on them and store the details on their database. Later on, if a user is found to be infected the NHS would make the call about all the hows, whens, and ifs of the warning procedure on the other phones.

If things were to work out the way NHS wants it to, the application would advise users to take steps to help them save themselves against the virus, like self-isolating if need be. The advice notified would be customized per the situation. They would also build a better database and help people with first-hand updates. People could also voluntarily provide detailed information about themselves to make the app’s experience more comprehensive.

Moreover, the centralized system would be way easier for conducting audits and analysis of the data that has been stored in the databases for further research about users that are at most risk.

But regardless of all the superficial advantages, the NHS would still be creating a database bursting with people’s personal information like their health statuses, their movements, and that too with the government having complete control of it.

The success of the entire operation dwells on the people’s trust in the NHS, the UK government, and the governments of all the countries for that matter who have opted for the centralized system.

WhatsApp's New Feature Lets You Add More People To Group Video Calls!


Finally! The days of whining about the limited number of participants you could add to WhatsApp’s group video and audio calls are OVER! Praise digital advancement, because the limit has been increased from 4 to 8 participants.

For people stuck far away from their families and in times that strictly demand social distancing, video calling applications contribute a lot in keeping us all sane by helping us feel close to our loved ones.

People have often found the number of participants in the group video/audio calls a major limitation of the otherwise significantly efficient WhatsApp.

Hence when WhatsApp, taking into account the terrific rise in the usage of Video Calling applications, at long last has decided to increase the number of contacts you can add to a group video/audio call, we can’t help but be happy.

The new feature would be exclusively available for the users of Android and iOS beta. The installation of the 2.20.50.25 update for the iOS beta users and the 2.20.133 beta update for the Android users is a prerequisite for the accessibility of the feature.

From One Billion daily active WhatsApp users and 400 Million out of them being Indians this new feature was being expected for quite a long time, researchers mention.


For the group video call with the raised number of participants to function at all, all the participants must have the same versions of the application, meaning 2.20.133 beta for Android users and 2.20.50.25 beta update for iOS users. A new header also notifies users about the end-to-end encryption of the calls.

Per sources, in the last month alone the number of people who “video-call” and the time they spend doing it has increased sufficiently on a global level. The pandemic has brought people closer “online” while being physically distant.

Other famous video calling applications including Facebook’s Messenger and Apple’s FaceTime offer a provision to add 50 and 32 people at once, respectively.

This feature will roll out gradually so all you have to do is update your WhatsApp application, sit tight, and wait for your device to embrace it with open arms!