An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly stated that Oracle had shipped security updates for its Java software. Oracle did push out an update for Java earlier this month — Java 6 Update 32 — but the new version was a maintenance update that did not include security fixes. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused.
Posts Tagged: apple
A number of readers responded to the story I published last week on the Flashback Trojan, a contagion that was found to have infected more than 600,000 Mac OS X systems. Most people wanted to know how they could detect whether their systems were infected with Flashback — and if so — how to remove the malware. This post covers both of those questions.
Since the discovery last week of the Flashback Mac botnet, several security firms have released tools to help detect and clean up Flashback infections. Dr.Web, the Russian antivirus vendor that first sounded the alarm about the outbreak, has published a free online service that lets users tell whether their systems have been seen phoning home to Flashback’s control servers (those servers have since been hijacked by researchers). The service requires users to enter their Mac’s hardware unique user ID (HW-UUID), because this is how the miscreants who were running the botnet kept track of their infections.
F-Secure Corp., the Finnish security firm that worked with Dr.Web to more accurately gauge the true number of Flashback-infected Macs, has a Flashback Removal Tool available for download from its Web site.
Where is Apple’s response in all of this, you ask? Apple says it is developing software that will detect and remove Flashback. Inexplicably, it has not yet released this tool, nor has it added detection for it to the XProtect antivirus tool built into OS X. The company’s advisory on this threat is predictably sparse, and focuses instead on urging users to apply a recent update for Java. Flashback attacks a well-known Java flaw, but it’s worth noting that Apple released the Java patch only after Flashback had begun infecting hundreds of thousands of Macs.
Update, 8:22 p.m. ET: Apple just released a new version of Java that includes a Flashback remover. Java for OS X Lion 2012-003 delivers Java SE 6 version 1.6.0_31 and supersedes all previous versions of Java for OS X Lion. It includes no new security fixes, but it adopts a novel approach to the debate over whether to temporarily disable or remove Java: “It configures the Java web plug-in to disable the automatic execution of Java applets. Users may re-enable automatic execution of Java applets using the Java Preferences application.” If the Java web plug-in detects that no applets have been run for at least 35 days, it will again disable Java applets.
The Wall Street Journal this week ran an excellent series on government surveillance tools in the digital age. One story looked at FinFisher, a remote spying Trojan that was marketed to the governments of Egypt, Germany and other nations to permit surreptitious PC and mobile phone surveillance by law enforcement officials. The piece noted that FinFisher’s creators advertised the ability to deploy the Trojan disguised as an update for Apple’s iTunes media player, and that Apple last month fixed the vulnerability that the Trojan leveraged.
But the WSJ series and other media coverage of the story have overlooked one small but crucial detail: A prominent security researcher warned Apple about this dangerous vulnerability in mid-2008, yet the company waited more than 1,200 days to fix the flaw.
The disclosure raises questions about whether and when Apple knew about the Trojan offering, and its timing in choosing to sew up the security hole in this ubiquitous software title: According to Apple, as of June 2011, there were approximately a quarter billion installations of iTunes worldwide.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment. An email sent Wednesday morning to its press team produced an auto-response stating that employees were already on leave for the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.
I first wrote about this vulnerability for The Washington Post in July 2008, after interviewing Argentinian security researcher Francisco Amato about “Evilgrade,” a devious new penetration testing tool he had developed. The toolkit was designed to let anyone send out bogus automatic update alerts to users of software titles that don’t sign their updates. I described the threat from this toolkit in greater detail:
Why is this a big deal? Imagine that you’re at an airport lounge, waiting to board your flight, and you pop open your laptop to see if you can hop on an open wireless network. Bear in mind that there are plenty of tools available that let miscreants create fake wireless access points for the purposes of routing your connection through their computer. You connect to that fake network, thinking you can check your favorite team’s sports scores. A few seconds later, some application on your system says there’s a software update available. You approve the update.
Or maybe you don’t approve the update. But that may not matter, because in some cases, auto-update features embedded in certain software titles will go ahead and download the update at that point, and keep nagging you until you agree to install it at a later date.
Evilgrade leveraged a flaw in the updater mechanism for iTunes that could be exploited on Windows systems. Amato described the vulnerability:
“The iTunes program checks that the binary is signed by Apple but we can inject content into the description as it opens a browser, with a malicious binary so that the user thinks its from Apple,” Amato said of his attack tool.
Emails shared with KrebsOnSecurity show that Amato contacted Apple’s security team on July 11, 2008, to warn them that the iTunes update functionality could be abused to push out malicious software. According to Amato, Apple acknowledged receipt of the report shortly thereafter, but it did not contact him about his findings until Oct. 28, 2011, when it sent an email to confirm his name and title for the purposes of crediting him with reporting the flaw in its iTunes 10.5.1 patch release details. Interestingly, Apple chose to continue to ignore the vulnerability even after Amato shipped a significant feature upgrade to Evilgrade in Oct. 2010.
The length of time Apple took to patch this significant security flaw is notable. In May 2006, I undertook a longitudinal study of how long it took Apple to ship security updates for its products. In that analysis, I looked at two years’ worth of patches issued to fix serious security bugs in Apple’s Mac OS X operating system, as well as other Apple software applications like iTunes. I found that on average, 91 days elapsed between the date that a security researcher alerted Apple to an unpatched flaw and the date Apple shipped a patch to fix the problem. In that study, I examined patch times for four dozen flaws, and the lengthiest patch time in that period was 245 days.
Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla all released updates on Tuesday to fix critical security flaws in their products. Adobe issued a patch that corrects four vulnerabilities in Shockwave Player, while Redmond pushed updates to address four Windows flaws. Apple slipped out an update that mends at least 17 security holes in its version of Java, and Mozilla issued yet another major Firefox release, Firefox 8.
The only “critical” patch from Microsoft this month is a dangerous Windows flaw that could be triggered remotely to install malicious software just by sending the target system specially crafted packets of data. Microsoft says this vulnerability may be difficult to reliably exploit, but it should be patched immediately. Information on the other three flaws fixed this week is here. The fixes are available via Windows Updates for most supported versions of the operating system, including XP, Vista and Windows 7. Continue reading →
Microsoft and Apple today released security updates to fix a slew of critical security problems in their software. Microsoft’s patch batch fixes at least 23 vulnerabilities in Windows and other Microsoft products. Apple’s update addresses more than 75 security flaws in the Windows versions of iTunes.
Nine of the 23 flaws Microsoft fixed with patches today are rated “critical,” meaning attackers could exploit them to break into vulnerable systems with little or no help from users. Eight of the nine critical bugs are in Internet Explorer. The remaining critical flaw is corrected in an update for the .NET Framework. Three of the vulnerabilities fixed with these updates were disclosed publicly prior to today, including a flaw in Windows Media Center that Microsoft believes crooks are likely to soon figure out how to reliably exploit.
The iTunes update brings the music player software to version 10.5, and is available for Microsoft systems running Windows 7, Vista, XP SP2 and later. Two new features of iTunes deserve mentioning: Apple says iPhone and iPad users who upgrade to iOS 5 when it is released later this week will be able to sync with iTunes wirelessly. More importantly from an update perspective, Apple has at long last untethered iTunes from QuickTime.
Apple has issued a software update that fixes at least three serious security holes in supported versions of its iPhone, iPad, iPod and iPod Touch devices.
The patch targets security weaknesses in the way iOS devices render PDF files. Experts have been warning that attackers could leverage the flaws to install software without warning or permission if users were to merely browse to a malicious site. The update fixes the same vulnerabilities that jailbreakme.com has been using to help people jailbreak Apple’s i-devices.
The Apple update — iOS 4.2.9 or iOS 4.3.4, depending on your device — can be downloaded only from within iTunes. If you are planning to jailbreak your device, visit jailbreakme.com, and then apply the unofficial patch that the Dev-Team released to help jailbreakers protect their phones from further abuse of the vulnerabilities.
Criminals have developed a component of the ZeuS Trojan designed to run on Google Android phones. The new strain of malware comes as security experts are warning about the threat from mobile malware that may use tainted ads and drive-by downloads.
Researchers at Fortinet said the malicious file is a new version of “Zitmo,” a family of mobile malware first spotted last year that stands for “ZeuS in the mobile.” The Zitmo variant, disguised as a security application, is designed to intercept the one-time passcodes that banks send to mobile users as an added security feature. It masquerades as a component of Rapport, a banking activation application from Trusteer. Once installed, the malware lies in wait for incoming text messages, and forwards them to a remote Web server.
Trusteer published a lengthy blog post today that mentions an attack by this threat “that was used in conjunction with Zeus 184.108.40.206. The user was first infected with Zeus on their PC and then Zeus showed the message requesting the user to download the Android malware component.” In a phone interview, Trusteer CEO Mickey Boodaei said crooks used the Trojan in live attacks against several online banking users during the first week of June, but that the infrastructure that supported the attacks was taken offline about a month ago.
Boodaei offers a bold and grim forecast for the development of mobile malware, predicting that within 12 to 24 months more than 1 in 20 (5.6%) of Android phones and iPads/iPhones could become infected by mobile malware if fraudsters start integrating zero-day mobile vulnerabilities into leading exploit kits.
The last bit about exploit kits is key, because almost all mobile malware developed so far uses some type of social engineering to install itself on a device. Boodaei predicts a future time when crooks begin incorporating mobile phone vulnerabilities into automated exploit kits like BlackHole and Eleonore, which use security flaws to install malicious software when the user visits a booby-trapped site with a vulnerable device.
Apple released a security update today designed to address the recent scourge of scareware targeting Mac users. The update comes as security experts spotted new versions of the rogue application family MacDefender making the rounds via poisoned links on Facebook.
Security Update 2011-003, available for Mac OS X v. 10.6.7 and Mac OS X Server v. 10.6.7, includes a component that checks for the MacDefender malware and its known variants. In its most recent advisory, Apple states: “If MacDefender scareware is found, the system will quit this malware, delete any persistent files, and correct any modifications made to configuration or login files. After MacDefender is identified and removed, the message below will be displayed the next time an administrator account logs in.”
The update also adds malware definitions to warn users away from downloading MacDefender, and sets the computer to check daily for updates to the malware definition list. Mac users who apply this update and later try to download a version of this malware via Safari, iChat or Mail should see a warning similar to the following dialog box: I’m glad that Apple has released this update, although I think they probably waited too long to do so. Some Windows users are no doubt experiencing a twinge of schadenfreude at this development, considering how Apple and many hardcore fans of the Mac platform have held out OS X as an unbreachable fortress. What the defenders of the Myth of Apple Invulnerability have long ignored is that a growing share of their user base is made up of people who are not technically sophisticated, and are just as prone to falling for clever social engineering attacks as their Windows counterparts.
A reader captured this thought nicely in a comment on my post last week about an apparent source of MacDefender scams: “Yes, many Mac users are technically sophisticated. But many others are not. Many bought Macs in hopes of staying safe despite having no computer training, or they may even have been advised to get a Mac by friends and relatives who feared the worse if they were let loose on the internet with a Windows machine. Many users are elementary school children and their teachers, since Mac is strong in educational software. It isn’t necessary for the perpetrators to be able to infect every Mac for this scheme to be profitable.”
As Apple’s share of the marketplace continues to grow, let me remind readers again that the staying-safe advice often posted on KrebsonSecurity applies with equal urgency to the Mac community as it does to users of other OS platforms.
Some of the recent scams that used bogus security alerts in a bid to frighten Mac users into purchasing worthless security software appear to have been the brainchild of ChronoPay, Russia’s largest online payment processor and something of a pioneer in the rogue anti-virus business.
Since the beginning of May, security firms have been warning Apple users to be aware of new scareware threats like MacDefender and Mac Security. The attacks began on May 2, spreading through poisoned Google Image Search results. Initially, these attacks required users to provide their passwords to install the rogue programs, but recent variants do not, according to Mac security vendor Intego.
A few days after the first attacks surfaced, experienced Mac users on Apple support forums began reporting that new strains of the Mac malware were directing users to pay for the software via a domain called mac-defence.com. Others spotted fake Mac security software coming from macbookprotection.com. When I first took a look at the registration records for those domains, I was unsurprised to find the distinct fingerprint of ChronoPay, a Russian payment processor that I have written about time and again as the source of bogus security software.
The WHOIS information for both domains includes the contact address of email@example.com. Last year, ChronoPay suffered a security breach in which tens of thousands of internal documents and emails were leaked. Those documents show that ChronoPay owns the mail-eye.com domain and pays for the virtual servers in Germany that run it. The records also indicate that the firstname.lastname@example.org address belongs to ChronoPay’s financial controller Alexandra Volkova.
With new security updates from vendors like Adobe, Apple and Java coming out on a near-monthly basis, keeping your Web browser patched against the latest threats can be an arduous, worrisome chore. But a new browser plug-in from security firm Qualys makes it quick and painless to identify and patch outdated browser components.
The Qualys BrowserCheck plug-in works across multiple browsers — including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Opera, on multiple operating systems. Install the plug-in, restart the browser, click the blue “Scan Now” button, and the results should let you know if there are any security or stability updates available for your installed plug-ins (a list of the plug-ins and add-ons that this program can check is available here). Clicking the blue “Fix It” button next to each action item listed fetches the appropriate installer from the vendor’s site and prompts you to download and install it. Re-scan as needed until the browser plug-ins are up to date.
Secunia has long had a very similar capability built into its free Personal Software Inspector program, but I realize not everyone wants to install a new program + Windows service to stay abreast of the latest patches (Secunia also offers a Web-based scan, but it requires Java, a plug-in that I have urged users to ditch if possible). The nice thing about Qualys’ plug-in approach is that it works not only on Windows, but also on Mac and Linux machines. On Windows 64-bit systems, only the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer is supported, and the plug-in thankfully nudges IE6 and IE7 users to upgrade to at least IE8.
Having the latest browser updates in one, easy-to-manage page is nice, but remember that the installers you download may by default come with additional programs bundled by the various plug-in makers. For example, when I updated Adobe’s Shockwave player on my test machine, the option to install Registry Mechanic was pre-checked. The same thing happened when I went to update my Foxit Reader plug-in, which wanted to set Ask.com as my default search provider, set ask.com as my home page, and have the Foxit toolbar added.