Conventional wisdom suggests that the vast majority of mobile malware cases impact Android devices. Or at least that those who do not jailbreak their iPhones are safe from most threats â€” even Apple CEO Tim Cook has bashed Android for â€œdominatingâ€ the mobile malware market. Yet a new virus found in China by U.S.-based researchers could herald the first serious security threat to Apple devices.
A report from Palo Alto Networks (hat tip The Verge) claims that a new family of malware is getting past Appleâ€™s settings to potentially infect secure (i.e. not jailbroken) iOS devices using infected software for Macs. Dubbed â€œWireLurker,â€ it was found in the wild in the Maiyadi App Store, a third-party Mac store in China, where it is said to have infected 467 apps. Infected versions of these programs have been downloaded more than 350,000 times and are likely to have affected â€œhundreds of thousandsâ€ of users, according to Palo Alto Networks. [Update: Apple tells us that it has blocked infected apps from working -- the company's full statement is at the bottom of this post.]
The malware works by repacking legitimate Mac applications. Once downloaded to a Mac, that software will then install malicious and third-party applications on any iOS device that is connected to the infected machine using a USB cable. Whatâ€™s most interesting â€” or, indeed, worrying for Apple customers â€” is that once on an iOS device, WireLurker reportedly uses a range of sophisticated techniques to modify existing apps for malicious purposes.