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IOS Iphone Spam Apple

First iOS Malware Discovered In Apple's App Store 171

Posted by timothy
from the still-a-pretty-good-track-record dept.
New submitter DavidGilbert99 writes "Security experts have discovered what is claimed to be the first ever piece of malware to be found in the Apple App Store. While Android is well known for malware, Apple has prided itself on being free from malicious apps ... until now. The app steals your contact data and uploads it to a remote server before sending spam SMS messages to all your contacts, but the messages look like they are coming from you."
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First iOS Malware Discovered In Apple's App Store

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  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:18PM (#40554667) Journal

    ...but years ago there was a tethering app disguised as a flashlight app so it's been possible for a long time.

    • by mystikkman (1487801) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:48PM (#40555113)

      ...but years ago there was a tethering app disguised as a flashlight app so it's been possible for a long time.

      A tethering app is malware... but only according to Apple.
      For their users, it's an extremely useful piece of software.

      • by kesuki (321456)

        a tethering app is malware to verizon too, since you need to pay to use the official tethering solution. which is called mobile hotspot.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          What do they do with Android phones? They have tethering built into the OS. I guess that they could disable it on their firmware, but it's trivally easy to root most Android phones and install whatever you want. You could also by an unlocked phone. I don't suppose Verizon forces you to buy a handset from them.
    • by oztiks (921504)

      3rd there was also a sega app ages ago that was stealing voucher and cc funds.

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:21PM (#40554715) Homepage

    The app steals your contact data and uploads it to a remote server

    So it's just iCloud?

  • by alen (225700) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:21PM (#40554719)

    i might download it just to give it some ranking in the top free apps

    otherwise it will be lost in the ocean of apps

    • The App's in Russian -- there's likely very few users (other than security researchers) outside of iTunes Russia who've downloaded it (until now).

  • The garden walls have been breached! Oh noes!

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:49PM (#40555119)

      Well it was sneaky the way it got threw. In general what the App does in its description required it to pull all this data off your phone. Then it needed to send the data to the cloud to match the correct name to get their phone number. Thus, it seemed to do what it says with a normal code review.

    • by camperslo (704715)

      The garden walls have been breached! Oh noes!

      Don't worry, a fleet of drones disguised as Angry Birds are closing in on the miscreant developer. Perhaps you'd like to buy an app that controls them?

  • No doubt... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shoten (260439) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:21PM (#40554735)

    Some will say that the Apple App Store is "no longer secure." This is ridiculous. It took 5 years for the first malware to show up...that's pretty damned good. Nothing is impermeable, after all. But the real value is that the malware can easily be removed...and its source eradicated. So it's not only about keeping malware out via the App Store, but also in having a swift and flexible response option for just this sort of occasion. Good security fails gracefully and a good defense in depth allows for easy recovery, and it looks to me like Apple meets those criteria.

    • Re:No doubt... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by unlucky ducky (2525132) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:33PM (#40554911)
      This is the first found and publicly revealed malware, it does not necessarily have to be the first malware on the platform. We have no way of actually knowing whether there's already been other malware in the store before.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      iOS would still be more secure if they applied the same options they do for location services to other sensitive functionality. That is let the user enable/disable it for specific apps.

      • by adamstew (909658)

        They are starting to do this with iOS 6. I have they beta on my device and anytime an app wants access to your contacts, calendar information, reminders, and/or photos the OS asks the user if it's okay for the app to access such things.

        • They are starting to do this with iOS 6. I have they beta on my device and anytime an app wants access to your contacts, calendar information, reminders, and/or photos the OS asks the user if it's okay for the app to access such things.

          In other words... Windows UAC.

          • by adamstew (909658)

            Kind of. It's a one-time request per App you install. It's more like Facebook's system of a user authorizing a Facebook app to access their data. The first time an App requests a particular type of data, UI from facebook pops up and says "here is what the app is requesting, do you want to allow it?"

            The way it works on iOS 6 is similar. The first time an App wants to access a protected type of data from the phone, UI from iOS pops up and asks if it's okay. It happens the first time and once you give per

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        Doesn't BlackberryOS do this? Apple really should take a page from that PlayBook and have permissions for apps accessing the phone or text items, contacts, music, and photos. It wouldn't add that much clutter, and it would add a lot of protection.

        On the cheap, maybe Apple should see about licensing the Cydia app Protect My Privacy and building that into the OS. That way, if an app does go and access stuff it shouldn't, it will get results, although it will just get a random UDID and garbage in the fields

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mlts (1038732) *

      Once malware gets rooted out and Apple slams the banhammer down, it is a lot harder for a shady developer to get around closed accounts than on the Google Marketplace. This by itself keeps the bad guys on notice.

      That is the main security mechanism of iOS which keeps the bad stuff at bay: As soon as Apple gets wind of something malicious or violating the rules, it gets tossed out immediately. The same action doesn't get repeated.

      Now, once an app does get past the gatekeeper, it has a lot of room to play b

      • Re:No doubt... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:19PM (#40555509)

        What stops that dev from spending another $99 on another dev account?
        Not that hard or expensive to kill your old corporation, start another and get a new AMEX.

        • by jo_ham (604554)

          What stops that dev from spending another $99 on another dev account?
          Not that hard or expensive to kill your old corporation, start another and get a new AMEX.

          Apple will just write a GUI in Visual Basic and track their IP address.

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      Some will say that the Apple App Store is "no longer secure." This is ridiculous.

      Um.. allowing people to install malicious software from a source deemed 'trustable' is actually a pretty big security hole. What's more is now you need to ask the question: "How do we know there aren't more and how can we prove it?".

    • Re:No doubt... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:01PM (#40555281)

      Some will say that the Apple App Store is "no longer secure." This is ridiculous.

      Right, it would be more accurate to say that it never really was "secure", it was just heavily audited. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that malicious apps will manage to sneak through the audits from time to time.

    • Re:No doubt... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:12PM (#40555437)

      Some people tend to have an all-or-nothing nature, especially when it concerns something they go partisan over - like Apple.

      I've easily had dozens of arguments over the years where I argued Apple was the more secure solution for the average user, people responded with pwn to own or some such, and if I argued further, they just labeled me as a "fanboi" as if that ended the argument even if I argued the Unix underpinnings. Nevermind that I use W7 and Ubuntu myself, or that it's my own personal experience having to play tech support to an entire tech-challenged family that's both hardworking and lucky enough to afford to have a choice. Sure, I could put them on OpenBSD or HardenedLinux, but the first obstacle they run into, they say "Why can't I do yadayadayada" they'll go and find a way to install Windows on it, which is perfectly fine by itself, and start downloading mouse icons that look like toy trojan horses and what not.

      The mindset of Y turns out to not be perfect, so it's on the same level of X, must originate from politics because the whole feel of the debate seems political. It's a retarded mentality to have, akin to cheering for wrestlers and their bogus storylines. It's sad that it has crept into tech so pervasively and that's what the whole last decade felt like on any issue - stupid partisan cheerleading for one side or the other, or booing against one side or another.

      The truth of a walled garden is that it's the most practical solution for most consumers, who really don't or can't police what they're doing. I wouldn't want to live in one exclusively, nor would most geeks, but that's why they're geeks, they go above and beyond the artificial constraints and don't need the protection.

    • Re:No doubt... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:16PM (#40555489) Homepage Journal

      it's not nearly the first ios app that sends contact infos off the phone for no particularly good reason.

    • Re:No doubt... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:42PM (#40555853) Journal

      It took 5 years for the first malware to show up.

      Wrong! It took 5 years for the first malware to be identified and publicly acknowledged.

      How many more exist secretly, awaiting a clever analyst?

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        I would go so far as to say that it took 5 years for the first malware to be acknowledged. When it was identified that Apple was tracking users, most Apple fans went into denial mode. Even when Apples 'apology' letter acknowledged that they were working on an application that depended on the tracking of users. I suppose that you could rationalize that code delivered with the OS can't be considered malware, but that seems to be splitting hairs.
    • Some will say that the Apple App Store is "no longer secure."

      Who cares about the Apple App Store no longer being secure if the iPhone itself lost that claim long ago? You iPhone users are just playing with semantics here. If your iPhone can be compromised by just being directed at a web site (as it did a while ago), it really doesn't matter much if the App Store is secure or not.

      Besides, I'm not even sure if the latter claim of the Apple App Store being secure is that true to begin with. Many iTunes users, including some app developers, have had their iTunes account

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      ...Good security fails gracefully and a good defense in depth allows for easy recovery, and it looks to me like Apple meets those criteria.

      Unless one finds that something like this could have been perhaps easily avoided by simply hooking up a network analyzer when scrutinizing this app prior to it being made public...

      Good policies and procedures after the fact are critical, but it should not excuse or replace basic competence or common sense security practice at step 1.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:22PM (#40554743)

    So they targeted both groups.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      This is true, but the summary is somewhat slanted to take an unnecessary pot shot at Android's security, perhaps to "lessen the blow"? Who knows.

      The article I read elsewhere was much more informative without the grandstanding.

  • Not surprising... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:28PM (#40554831)

    One of my beefs about iOS is that even though it will ask the user if an app attempts to use the GPS or notification, there are plenty of juicy things that can be obtained and copied elsewhere. Photos are protected against being deleted, but they can be slurped up and copied off without the user knowing. Same with contacts and music.

    I'm surprised this was caught. If a person jailbreaks their device and runs PMP (Protect My Privacy) and Firewall IP, they will see a lot of apps digging in places where they shouldn't be, and sending lots of data to sites that have zero relevance to the task at hand. One major news app connects to so many sites without DNS (just via IP addresses) that I ended up just blacklisting all but the few sites it gets news info.

    I would say where the rubber meets the road, iOS has been more secure, because Apple guards the gateway and does it well. However, if anything malicious does make it past, it can have a field day.

    • by samkass (174571) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:49PM (#40555117) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, this is fixed in iOS 6. Separate prompts for Location, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Photos, and after the fact you can see who requested it, who currently has access, and toggle them.

      My only complaint is that the App Store doesn't give you this information before you download the app. Developers should have to declare that they want to access any of these things (and show ads, and have in-app purchases), and the App Store listing should contain the information about what the app is going to want to do before you buy it.

      • My only complaint is that the App Store doesn't give you this information before you download the app.

        android has done with since it's inception, both for app store installed and side-loaded apps.

    • I would say where the rubber meets the road, iOS has been more secure, because Apple guards the gateway and does it well. However, if anything malicious does make it past, it can have a field day.

      ...for a limited time. Apple pulled the app from the store almost an hour before this hit Slashdot.

      As for this being caught... that doesn't take much: all it takes is the first few people complaining about you spamming them via SMS, and the gig is up.

  • by kiriath (2670145)
    Maybe these are the bastards that broke Angry Birds!!!!!!11 =D
  • by bhlowe (1803290) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:33PM (#40554907)
    Any estimate of the number of people who installed it and ran it? Did it have a useful function that would get people to install it from the 500K other iOS apps? Did the app have any ratings that suggested that it was worth installing? Was the app Russian language only? (English language apps probably get more scrutiny, since the app reviewing is done by Apple in Cupertino...) Did anyone check with PayPal to see if the account has been closed and if refunds are due?
    • Turn off JavaScript if you're on an iOS device, and take a look at the google cache of the app's iTunes page [googleusercontent.com]. It was up on AppStore for a month and didn't even get enough downloads to get any ratings or rankings or reviews... even buried AC slashdot comments get more exposure than this app's AppStore page. I can't figure out what the purpose of the app is nor what the author was attempting to accomplish with this trojan.
    • by Kalriath (849904)

      How is PayPal even slightly relevant? The only PayPal account that would be involved would be Apple's (and I don't see PayPal cutting Apple off) and Apple pays out developers by direct wire transfer into their bank account.

  • Does anyone know how the app approval process works exactly? Is there 1 person or a team responsible for every app submitted? Do they only look at the inputs/outputs and overall UI, or do they look at every line of code? For example, what if I write a game that does something malicious on level 39, beyond what the Apple inspectors will likely reach in playing the game during the review process? And what if Level 39 is not anything malicious on the network, contact, sms, phone level, but just displays someth
    • by kagaku (774787)

      You'd likely get that past the inspections, but once discovered it would be quickly removed.

      From what I hear, the reviewers do a combination of testing the application (and for anything that has an online/account component, they request a fully functional unrestricted account to test with) and analyzing the application with tools that look for usage of private/restricted frameworks. I'm sure there is more to it, but they're definitely not going line-by-line through the code. When you submit an app to the ap

      • The app itself doesn't really do anything malicious -- it snarfs down your address book and grabs your SMS ID -- which are things done by countless other apps. The malicious bit is all done server-side, where the "company" sends promotional SMSes out to everyone in your address book, spoofing your SMS ID. ...and the App was removed within an hour of Apple being made aware of the situation.

    • They are pretty bad at checking apps, actually. Check out this news article about one guy who got something pretty crazy through. [networkworld.com]
  • I thought Apple had, in a fairly recent iOS update, made it so that an app couldn't just silently query a person's contact data... that the application would need to declare to the OS that it was going to do this, the OS would then check with the user to see if it was okay. If the user hadn't given permission, I thought trying to access the contact data from an app would be futile.

    Again, this was just my understanding here... so either this is only an issue with older iOS versions, or else my understanding is completely borked, and I have no idea what I'm talking about.

    • by adamstew (909658)

      They are doing it in iOS 6, which hasn't been released yet. It is in Beta and should be released in the next couple of months.

  • by Pulse301 (1146221) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:43PM (#40555029)
    InstaStock was malicious and was available on the app store. Why doesn't it count as the first?
  • This is just proof that Apple's rigorous app approval process consists solely of a dartboard.

  • by dimer0 (461593) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:55PM (#40555199)
    Was curious how these guys could send text messages to people looking like they came from you (because there's no way for an app to get its hands on your phone number) - but realized from TFA that the user was prompted to enter their mobile phone number into a text box (and no validation was done on that). So, for idiots, it might look like it was coming from you. But there's no F'in way I'm entering my phone number into an app I download from the app store.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Was curious how these guys could send text messages to people looking like they came from you (because there's no way for an app to get its hands on your phone number) - but realized from TFA that the user was prompted to enter their mobile phone number into a text box (and no validation was done on that). So, for idiots, it might look like it was coming from you. But there's no F'in way I'm entering my phone number into an app I download from the app store.

      Odd, considering there are APIs to get the phone n

  • The app is already gone off the App store, at least in the US.
  • Stopping malware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:03PM (#40555313)
    One way to stop the proliferation of malware in these so-called app stores is to not allow the submission of binaries. Force the author to submit source code instead so it can be audited and then have Apple build the binaries. Apple could then put the binary through its paces to see how it behaves. I'm not necessarily advocating this method because there are multiple points for abuse but it is one way to thwart the problem. It would force the would-be malware writers to innovate and adapt and that would not be easily done.
  • Next thing you know they'll have to get their own botnet for the iphone and it probably won't even be compatible with the android botnet and they'll patent it, obviously.
  • Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WankerWeasel (875277) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:13PM (#40555457)
    It was also available in the Google Play store too. With the hundreds of thousands of apps that they have to review, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Plenty of apps grab your address book info including the Facebook app. What it does with them Apple has little control over. Facebook could choose to spam them on their server side and Apple couldn't prevent it (other than no longer allowing apps to access contact info).
  • It's impossible for Apple to review every program or test it to a degree to ensure it's safety. All the bad guys need to do is produce a seemingly useful application which calls home for legitimate purposes, make it work as advertised and the remotely flip switch at some point into malicious mode. The malicious code could be obfuscated. It would be trivial to do and the bad guys would clearly know that too.
  • Is there no "Little Snitch" app out there?
    • Is there no "Little Snitch" app out there?

      No, but there's no reason you couldn't use your Mac running Little Snitch as a reverse firewall gateway for all your wifi connected iOS devices... connect your Airport to your Mac via ethernet, turn on Internet Sharing and share your Mac's wifi connection to the ISP wireless router to your Ethernet (and the Airport connected to it), and batten down Little Snitches hatches... and turn on the Application firewall, and enable ipfw for good measure... making sure to never say always when the dialogues start po

  • by farble1670 (803356) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:27PM (#40555613)

    While Android is well known for malware,

    in theory, and not in practice that is. the *only* thing that makes android more vulnerable is apple's more severe vetting for apps in their store, and the fact that android apps can be "side loaded", or installed from arbitrary sources (other than the google play store). side loaded is disabled by default and must be explicitly enabled by the user after subjecting them to a scary warning dialog.

    android security model of fine-grained permissions that are presented to the user before the app is even installed is superior to iOS. what android doesn't do is protect users from their own stupidity. read the permissions. if you choose to go ahead and install that flashlight app that requests permission to the internet and to read your contacts, you'll get what you deserve.

  • This isn't malware (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quila (201335) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @04:40PM (#40556759)

    The application is working as advertised, uploading data as allowed by the user.

    The problem is that the company is not trustworthy for what it does with that data. This can be any company: Do you trust Google, Yelp or Facebook with your data? This is the decision you have to make with any app on any platform. Pretty much the only way around this would be for Apple to require privacy and data use policies with minimum protections for all developers, and then require them to be bonded against a misuse contrary to that policy.

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @06:19PM (#40557957)
    "Security experts have discovered what is claimed to be the first ever piece of malware to be found in the Apple App Store"

    How much does it cost? I'll buy anything for $.99

  • by EEPROMS (889169) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:01PM (#40558301)

    "The app steals your contact data and uploads it to a remote server before sending spam SMS messages to all your contacts, but the messages look like they are coming from you."

    So facebook is malware now ?

  • Anyone who claims that CarrierIQ was actually the first malware in the app store for iOS is totally wrong. It was pre-installed by Apple on every phone. It was never available from the app store, so the headline is absolutely correct.
  • The Applerati have long held an attitude of disdain for other platforms, while clinging to an illusion of invincibility inculcated by Apple marketing. It has always been a sham; researchers have repeatedly shown how Apple has introduced numerous vulnerabilities into OS X not present in its BSD antecedents.

    Unfortunately, some Linux aficionados have been bitten by a similar bug. Nothing conceived by the human imagination is impervious to attack. Geek, secure thyself.

  • The app steals your contact data and uploads it to a remote server before sending spam SMS messages to all your contacts, but the messages look like they are coming from you.

    I think my iPhone has had this virus for a while. It also randomly changes all your contact's email addresses and is particularly nasty. It's called "Facebook"

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