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Posts tagged ‘trojan’

8
Jul

Mac OS X “Lion” and the Dangers of Restoring from a Partition

With the release of Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion”, Apple is changing the way we’ll be doing system upgrades. Lion will only be available to Snow Leopard users electronically through the Mac App Store, and thus it will no longer be possible to purchase a physical install DVD. Before I go into the intended topic of this post, allow me to <rant> about how I’m not too keen on this decision. As a result, it’s no longer possible to install OSX on Macs that don’t have an internet connection (yes, these do exist!). Even for those who do, many don’t have very fast internet connections, or may have extremely low usage caps. I know that UK internet providers still offer entry-level packages 5Mbit lines and stupidly low 1-5 GB monthly limits. Lion is likely to be about 4GBs in size. Oh, you want to install OSX on more than one Mac? Suuure, just download the 4GB install package on each Mac.</rant> You get the point…

The real thing I wanted to talk about is Apple’s solution to system re-installation or recovery, and specifically the security implications thereof. Installing Lion will cause it to create a small ‘recovery’ partition on your primary drive, which is essentially a partition equivalent of an install DVD. If you have a problem with your main OSX partition, and need to run repair utilities or reinstall, you just boot from the recovery partition. Sounds really useful actually, as you don’t need to worry about having a DVD handy. But where this solution brings ease-of-use and convenience, it also brings some security risks.

Although Mac OS X is still largely unaffected by malware, the winds of change are indeed upon us, and it’s unrealistic to assume the Mac will remain virus-free forever. As viruses get more complex they find ever-improving ways of making themselves persistent on a system. There are countless examples of Master Boot Record viruses on Windows where the only sure-fire solution is to completely wipe the hard drive and reinstall from CD/DVD. Because once your system is infected, good security practice forces you to assume that any file or executable is compromised. So, how does this affect a bootable recovery partition? If I were a virus writer, I’d make pretty darn sure that I infect a core installer file on the recovery partition so that any  installation will have my virus. The nice thing about DVDs is that even if you insert them into an infected computer, they can’t be changed, and so you have complete confidence (barring a very advanced/rare firmware virus) that wiping and reinstalling from DVD yields a fresh and clean install of your system. As a security professional, I don’t think I’ll be able to trust a recovery partition like that.

But wait, there’s more. Viruses are a concern, but if you’re a smart user they’re not really a problem. We can run anti-virus, disable Flash, Java and Javascript, etc, and as long as you browse safely and don’t open random executables you’ll be perfectly fine. What about an attacker with remote or physical access to your computer? If I remotely hack into someone’s Mac, either due to a vulnerability or a weak password, all I have to do is modify a few files in the existing system and the recovery partition, and boom, persistent back door! The user can reinstall OSX all they want… my back door will simply be reinstalled with it.

But wait, there’s more. Even if your computer is completely secure from remote attacks, the same goes for someone with physical access to your Mac. Now, as a disclaimer, I have to point out that anytime an attacker gets physical access to any computer it’s game over. Even if you use FileVault, I may not be able to log in to your computer (unless some kind of cold boot attack is still possible), but I can easily boot your computer from a USB stick (or remove your hard drive if you have a Firmware password), trojan your recovery partition and corrupt your primary boot partition (similar to an Evil Maid attack). What are you going to do? Reinstall Mac OS X from my trojaned recovery partition of course! It’s not like you have a choice.

Any system compromise can lead to the installation of a persistent backdoor for the lifetime of the recovery partition on that hard drive. I don’t want to sound overly critical; I am probably one of the most fervent Apple supporters you’ll ever meet (with good reasons too), but not to the extent it stops me from thinking about potential impacts. I appreciate that Apple is trying to make things easier for Joe User. Being able to download updates electronically is awesome, and I honestly believe many would take advantage of that (myself included), but users should be given the choice. Particularly in situations like this where not having a physical install medium can have an impact on both usability and security.

My guess (or maybe hope) is that if Apple is not going to sell install DVDs itself, we may be allowed to burn our own install DVDs after downloading Lion from the Mac App Store. Either way, it is fairly trivial to burn the Lion installer onto a DVD – but users shouldn’t have to (or sometimes can’t) resort to a hack like that. Take heed, Apple.

[Update 21/07/11] Ok, so Apple isn’t going to allow users to burn their own DVDs, but they have confirmed that Lion will be available on a mini USB drive in August (for $69).

29
May

The State of Mac Malware

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the sudden increase in Mac-specific malware cropping up so far this year. First people raved about the fairly tame and unthreatening BlackHole RAT trojan, then Mac users had to watch out for a slightly more crafty but avoidable MACDefender trojan, and now there’s news of a more advanced malware kit (Weyland-Yutani Bot) that has the ability to steal data entered into Firefox (Safari and Chrome currently unaffected, but expected to follow soon). AppleCare has reportedly been receiving a significant number of calls about the MACDefender trojan, and has issued a support document on how to deal with it.

Clearly some change is in the air, but exactly how does it affect normal Mac users? I for one actively look for Mac-based malware (eg. MACDefender), and have never stumbled across it by accident. Maybe I need to surf on the ‘dark side’ of the web more often. I just wanted to give my take on recent events and the state of Mac malware, and why I don’t think there’s any reason to be too worried just yet.

Read moreRead more

3
May

Low Risk MACDefender Trojan is Easily Avoided

There have been widespread reports of people installing a trojan that masquerades as an anti-virus program dubbed MacDefender. When visiting a malicious or compromised website promoted by SEO (search engine) poisoning, some Mac OS X users using Safari are experiencing the automatic download of a disk image which then automatically mounts and launches an installer. Intego’s blog has a detailed report which shows that they’ve discovered instances of scareware, where the websites (ironically displaying a faux-Windows GUI) show a fake virus scan and inform the user that their computer is infected.

Note: The automatic mounting and execution of the installer can easily be prevented by unchecking the “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” option in the Safari Preferences.

If the user installs it, the MacDefender app look very professionally done and is unlike any other OSX malware to date. It will periodically open porn sites, pop up warnings that the user’s computer is infected, and prompt them to purchase the MacDefender anti-virus software. The software purchase page is just a place to get the user’s credit card number, and no product is delivered.

For the most part this is a very low-risk trojan, and can easily be avoided by disabling the ‘safe files’ option, and not installing software that randomly appears on your computer. No website can arbitrarily scan your computer for malware, and if they tell you that you’re infected, they’re lying. If common sense and good security practice aren’t enough, you can install an anti-virus (eg. VirusBarrier or Sophos) that will pick up this trojan.

If you did accidentally install the trojan, it can be removed with the following steps:

  1. Open Activity Monitor (in /Applications/Utilities/), and find the MacDefender.app process in the list. If it’s there, select it and click ‘Quit Process’.
  2. Open System Preferences (in the Apple menu) and click on Accounts. Click on the Login Items tab for your user, and find MacDefender in the list. If it’s there, select it and remove it using the minus [-] button below the list.
  3. Delete MacDefender from your Applications folder.

Check out my article on Securing Leopard and Top 100 Security and Privacy Tips!

[Update 5/5/11] There are reports of variants of the MACDefender trojan going around under the name “Mac Security” or “Mac Shield”. For the reversers, check out this reverse engineering of the MACDefender binary.

27
Feb

New Mac OS X Backdoor Trojan (BlackHole RAT) in Development [Updated]

A ‘trojan’ targeting Mac OS X users, dubbed BlackHole RAT, appears to be in development. It’s a variant of a well-known series of malware called Remote Access Tools (RAT) that primarily targeted Windows. It should be noted that on its own, the trojan does not exploit OSX, instead relying on the user to unknowingly ‘install’ it. This is often done under the guise of pirated software, video plugins on porn sites, or from other non-reputable software sources. Although the details are not entirely clear, it appears like your computer needs to be directly accessible from the internet.

This ‘trojan’ (note the intended air quotes) has been blown out of proportion and does not pose a significant level of risk. Macs are not ‘less secure’ because of this tool, as it’s something that could be coded by any 14-year old with a relatively basic knowledge of programming. It’s essentially a normal application whose purpose is to accept connections from its owner, and allow them to perform actions on your computer, etc.

Hit the jump for the full details, a video and download link. Read moreRead more

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