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  • How a macOS virus  changed the world of cybersecurity


    Not so long ago, it was believed that the Mac computer was invulnerable to viruses. Apple stated that "it does not get infected with computer viruses". But that was before the Mac OS X Flashback Trojan appeared in 2012.

    With the advent of Flashback Trojan, Mac and iPhone security issues have changed a lot, as has the security of the whole world. In this article, we'll explore how the Flashback incident unfolded and how it changed the security landscape forever.

    What is Mac Flashback Trojan?


    Flashback (also called Flashfake) is a type of malware for Mac OS X that was first discovered in September 2011. By March 2012, the Trojan had infected about 700,000 computers worldwide. Once infected, the compromised computers were included in the botnet, which made it possible to install additional malicious code. One of the goals of the malware was to create fake search results.

    Attackers also used Flashback to profit from Google ads. The ad click component of the Trojan was loaded into Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, where it could intercept browser requests and redirect certain search queries to a page of the attacker's choice. From there, the perpetrators generated click-through revenue totaling about $10,000 a day.

    Infection via WordPress

    At the time, Kaspersky Lab assumed that the Flashback malware was created by Russian developers.

    The program implements a redirect script from a huge number of legitimate sites around the world. By early March 2012, the program had infected tens of thousands of WordPress sites. This could be due to site owners using vulnerable versions of WordPress or installing the ToolsPack plugin. About 85% of the compromised sites were located in the United States.

    When visiting an infected site, users are prompted to download or install Flash Player. The malware installs a dynamic installer and auto-run code on the computer that makes changes to all applications that run on the system. In addition, the virus also establishes a connection with a remote server and sends it information about the MAC address of the infected device.

    New Reality for iOS and MacOS

    The news of Flashback shocked the entire cybersecurity and IT industry. Trust in Mac OS, which was considered a refuge from viruses, instantly disappeared. And this was not an isolated case. In April 2012, a new Trojan for Mac OS X was discovered.

    In addition, vulnerabilities continue to evolve today. In August 2022, Apple released security updates for iOS 15.6.1, iPadOS 15.6.1, and macOS Monterey 12.5.1. The patched vulnerabilities give a hacker full administrative access to the device. This allows a cybercriminal to impersonate the owner of the device and subsequently run any software on his behalf.

    Moreover, the new 2022 Global Threat Report from Elastic Security Labs showed that 48% of all macOS malware comes from a single application. The MacKeeper application, designed to protect and improve device performance, delivers 48% of malware that targets macOS to Apple computers, the researchers said.

    Increase in malware programs


    However, Mac or iPhone is still safe compared to other devices: their built-in protection is still better than others. Malware development for macOS grew by over 1,000% in 2020, with a total of 674,273 malware samples created, according to Atlas VPN. Windows has much worse statistics - more than 91 million samples.

    The Flashback incident led to a rapid increase in the number of attacks. For example, from 2012 to 2013, the growth rate of malware infections more than doubled, from 82.62 million to 165.81 million incidents. In addition, financial losses caused by cybercriminals increased by more than $200 million.

    Many factors are driving this growth. Among others, this includes:

    growth of remote work (there are more surfaces for attacks);
    special operation in Ukraine;
    cheap services of cyberattacks "on order".

    The IBM Cost of a Data Breach 2022 report found that 83% of organizations have experienced a data breach at some point. These new realities make security not only a top business concern, but also a key element of the overall business strategy.

    New threats require new tools

    No system is completely secure, but every system must have security features – regular threat monitoring, Zero Trust and AI-based protection will help protect systems from cyber threats.

    The number of applications and devices is actively growing, as well as remote work. Companies are moving their networks to the cloud. We now operate without a network perimeter, and security solutions must evolve to protect our systems anywhere.

    Adaptation to modern conditions

    Despite the growing danger in cyberspace, cybersecurity specialists successfully cope with threats. For example, an IBM report showed that:

    Companies saved an average of $3.05 million per hack thanks to deployed artificial intelligence and security automation;

    An average savings of $2.66 million was achieved through Incident Response (IR) teams and a regularly tested IR plan;

    Advanced Detection and Response (XDR) technologies reduced response time by 29 days.

    Author DeepWeb
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