Palo Alto Networks, a California-based network security company, has discovered a new family of malware called WireLurker that could threaten 800 million Apple devices today.
According to Palo Alto Networks, WireLurker is the first of its kind that can easily infect iOS apps the way a regular computer virus could. The company added that WireLurker is only the second malware family known that can affect iOS devices via OS X, the operating system used in every one of Apple's Mac computers.
What WireLurker does is monitor any iOS-run device that is connected through USB with an infected OS X computer. It then downloads third-party apps into the iOS device. As stated in Palo Alto's 30-page report, the malware can steal all sorts of data from any device it infects, and even asks for updates from the attacker's server, which means it is always in development.
Palo Alto was first alerted of the malware back in June earlier this year -- a developer working at Tencent Holdings Ltd had reported the threat at that time. Right after that first reported incident, Apple users started reporting on various online forums, relating further instances of the installation of unusual apps and the creation of enterprise provisioning profiles in their iOS devices.
Palo Alto further believes that WireLurker is used a trojan in order to get unauthorized access to 467 OSX apps on the Maiyadi App Store, a third party app store from China. In the past half year, these apps have been downloaded more than 356,000 times, which means hundreds of thousands of users could be affected already.
As noted by the network security company, only a couple of malware families have been confirmed to have been installed into non-jailbroken iOS devices. Both were immediately removed by Apple from the App Store when they were detected. As of now, WireLurker is the only known non-jailbroken malware that is active, potentially threatening more than 800 million iOS devices.
Palo Alto said that there is no evidence yet that the people behind WireLurker have stolen anything more than messaging IDs and contact book addresses. But the malware could definitely pose a more serious threat if it gets hold of other more important information.
Apple has already been notified of the threat, although they have not released a statement of their own regarding WireLurker. For now, Palo Alto suggests, iOS and OS X users should refrain from downloading apps or games from any third party or untrusted source website. Also, users should also avoid connecting their devices to any computer they don't trust. Keeping the iOS software constantly updated is also a wise idea.
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