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It just works -- except when you're infected

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has long maligned the Windows PC as being virus laden, while promoting its own Mac computers as being immune to such evils.  But despite this "It just works" publicity campaign, recent OS X malware [1][2][3][4] has forced Apple onto the defensive, silently rolling out tools to remove malicious programs from users' computers.

I. Malware Enslaves Unwitting Mac Users' GPUs

Now another piece of malware has struck unsuspecting Mac owners.  The new multiplatform trojan, reported in the wild by security firms Sophos Security and Intego, is much more sophisticated than most of the past malware to hit the Mac platform.

The malicious program installs as part of infected torrent downloads from sites such as The Pirate Bay.  Thus far the malware has been primarily found to be piggybacking on pirated copies of the image editing app GraphicConverter version 7.4 (whose authors are not involved in the screen and do not approve of the pirating in the first place).  The onboard malware is officially known in security circles as OSX/Miner-D, and is nicknamed the "DevilRobber".

Mac torrent client
Mac torrenters may find themselves the victim of a clever new trojan -- as usual Apple remains silent on the issue. [Source: iQuid]

Once installed on the victim's machine, the malware opens a back-door to the OS X system, allow remote command-and-control.  It also monitors your computer, attempting to steal personal information like credit cards.  

OS X miner installed
The malware targets multiple platforms -- including the Mac. [Source: Intego]

To do this it takes screenshots.  It also periodically dumps confidential information from various applications -- such as truecrypt data, Vidalia (TOR plugin for Firefox), your Safari browsing history, and .bash_history -- into the creatively named file dump.txt.  It also records your username and passwords via monitoring using a proxy server (on port 34522 in the most common variant, but likely to change).

But its biggest target is the crypto-currency "bitcoins".
malware code
The DevilRobber trojan uses screen captures to steal your password and private information. [Source: Sophos]

Bitcoins are a nation agnostic cyber-currency, beloved by hackers, internet aficionados, and libertarians (among others).  In order to seed the initial distribution of "wealth" on the market, people can use computing resources to "mine" Bitcoins, via clients.

The key part of DevilRobber is a Bitcoin mining Java program which the core trojan executes.  The trojan enslaves the target's GPU to harvest Bitcoins.  Due to the hard-to-trace nature of the cryptocurrency, the malware's authors can successfully obfuscate their identity and safeguard their profits.

The mining program is often how the infection is first noticed, as it makes the system respond sluggishly, given the load it places on the GPU.

As a secondary tactic, the core trojan also attempts to access any unencrypted Bitcoin wallets it can find.  It is unknown whether it contains code to access encrypted wallets, but it is reasonable to assume that future updates could deliver the ability to "crack" weakly encrypted wallet files.  Compromised wallets transfer their Bitcoin riches to the attacker.

Curiously, the trojan also deletes any files leading pthc.  This acronym is associated in internet forums with the phrase "pre-teen hardcore pornograph", aka child porn.  It almost appears that the trojan writers have attempted to do a bit of good amid all the evil they have created.

II. Lessons Learned

The new attack illustrates some of the issues surrounding both Apple computers and Bitcoins.

Bitcoin ButtonBitcoin badges
[Sources: Bitcoin Forum (left); Nerd Merit Badges (right)]

For Apple, it's yet another indication that company's public effort to feign ignorance on malware is harming customers.  While tech-savvy Mac users understand their platforms are just as susceptible to infections as PCs, in theory if not in practice, less tech-savvy users often believe their Mac is magically immune to infection.  This belief is perpetuated by Apple's advertisements and the company's technicians, which were revealed to be under orders to lie to customers -- feigning ignorance of infections.  This approach has led to at least some of Apple's customers being victimized by the hacking community. 

This situation is only likely to get worse, as Apple refuses to publicly acknowledge the danger, as Microsoft has, for risk of losing its "it just works" public image.  But currently in third place in computer sales by vendor, and with what some hackers say are weaker protections than Windows 7, interest in malicious Mac hacking is trending upwards.

As for Bitcoins, the cryptocurrency holds great promise, as it is formulated to prevent local government corruption, double spending, inflation, and ineffectual government monetary regulation.  However, the Bitcoin market has been dealt a series of setbacks, both via the entrance of cybercriminals as large-scale miners, and from account breaches.  

With Bitcoin's largest exchange recently hacked, the currency's proponents have raced to safeguard their brainchild.  More work clearly needs to be done to exclude cybercriminal miners, or Bitcoin risks being intimately associated with illegality.

Sources: Intego, Sophos Security

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RE: Same old crap
By Gio6518 on 11/1/2011 4:20:44 PM , Rating: 4
And how is this any different then how MAC users spread rumors about windows viruses, I've never had a windows virus, don't know anyone that has gotten one since vista, or even heard of any major outbreak, in years...

Reality is MAC users are more vulnerable to malware than Windows users due to the fact that they are under the false assumption that they are safe and do not need malware protection...The biggest downfall of Windows users in this catagory is that the unknowledgeable user, buys a PC which usually comes with a trial antivirus and assume that will work for life and not just the 30,60,or 90 days that the trial is good for...

RE: Same old crap
By Tony Swash on 11/1/11, Rating: -1
RE: Same old crap
By blankslate on 11/1/2011 8:22:14 PM , Rating: 2
Windows and Macs security reputations are both richly deserved.

You are proof positive that the RDF exists.

Just because no one bothered to try shooting your OS until recently doesn't mean it is bullet proof.

Windows has become harder to compromise than it was before.

Quit living in the past.

RE: Same old crap
By Gio6518 on 11/2/2011 3:34:40 AM , Rating: 3
Windows and Macs security reputations are both richly deserved.

In the last couple years the majority of attacks have been to OS10...lets take a look at the lastest 10 Windows vulnerabilities

Apple is advising Windows users to update their systems following the release of a patch for the QuickTime media player tool. Ten of the flaws could be targeted by way of a maliciously crafted PICT or FlashPix movie file to cause an application crash and allow remote code execution.

The update also fixes a cross-site scripting flaw which could allow an attacker to insert code into an HTML file, and a vulnerability which could allow an attacker to view a user's memory contents by way of malformed movie file
The company said in a security advisory that QuickTime 7.7.1 addresses 12 vulnerabilities in the Windows version of the platform, but does not affect Mac OS X users.
Apple urged Windows users to install the 7.7.1 update, which can be obtained through the Apple Software Update utility or manually downloaded from the Apple support site. The update supports Windows versions from XP to Windows 7.

So in other words the flaws in Windows comes from using Apple software..

RE: Same old crap
By its tom hanks on 11/3/11, Rating: -1
"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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