In a year that is turning out to be a tough one for Apple, yet another malware campaign has surfaced, one that attacks Apple iPhones and tablets that are linked to various different bodies, including governments, European defence organisations and some media sectors. The malware contains espionage spyware that can breach iPhones that have not been jailbroken.
Image : Spyware on iPhone and iPad
The campaign has been given the moniker of Operation Pawn Storm by high-level security experts and was first found last year on Windows computers. It has now been detected on some iOS devices and has been linked to the Russian government. There are two spywares evident in the campaign; one is an application that tries to install itself and run on an iOS device; it has been dubbed XAgent.
The subsequent installation then spreads the spyware is an ad-hoc provisioning feature that Apple provides for businesses and developers and bypasses the iOS App store. The second part of the campaign has been disguised as a game, named Madcap, which will only work on a jailbroken device, where XAgent works on any iOS device. XAgent can collect pictures, text messages, geolocation date and it can even remotely access the microphone and recording whatever is going on.
Quote : XAgent Spyware on iOS
While XAgent will run on both iOS 7 and 8, the icon is hidden on iOS 7 where, on iOS 8 it must be launched manually whenever the phone reboots. According to Jon Clay, the senior manager for Global Threat Communications at Trend Micro, the group behind the attack may have targeted iOS because of the level of high-profile agencies that use iOS devices, either the iPhone or iPad.
There is security software on the market that will detect XAgent and this is recommended rather than trying to detect the malware manually. The advice remains the same for this as previous attempts – do not click on any links that look suspicious and don’t download anything that isn’t from the iOS app store. The good news is, the malware does not install automatically; the user plays a part.