NewsJune 13, 2017 @ 3:46 PM

Rotten Apples: MacSpy, MacRansom Bring Malware-as-a-Service Model to MacOS

Cyberattacks targeting Apple software used to be rare, but a pair of new MacOS malware-as-a-service threats suggest that cybercriminals are starting to see opportunities beyond the Windows market.

A New Malware on the Market

Bleeping Computer recently disclosed the availability of MacSpy, a form of spyware aimed at OS X, for sale on the Dark Web, and MacRansom, another malware-as-a-service offering aimed at Apple users. MacSpy will take screenshots, record audio and steal browser data from Mac users. MacRansom can encrypt a user’s files until payment is made, just like PC-based ransomware.

As eWeek pointed out, Apple has often marketed its operating system as an inherently safer choice, even making TV spots about the security of its operating systems. Although malware-as-a-service threats could be a sign that’s changing, researchers told the publication that the spyware and ransomware in question are somewhat less sophisticated than similar programs targeting Windows.

Malware-as-a-Service in Beta?

In fact, Dark Reading suggested that MacSpy might only be in beta mode, though both programs can be purchased via bitcoin. Security experts called these malware-as-a-service because they operate as an on-demand business where attacks can be scheduled to launch at a predetermined time. It is possible that both MacSpy and MacRansom were developed by the same person or group, the source said.

Those hit by the malware-as-a-service could face significant damages. ITNews noted that MacRansom in particular will tamper with the TargetFileKey in OS X, making it nearly impossible to decrypt files even once the malware has been deleted. MacSpy, meanwhile, can not only log keystrokes and access photos, but also encrypt directories, open email and even hack social media accounts.

Preparing for the Future

As Apple’s products become more popular with both consumers and businesses, it’s possible malicious actors will begin to view MacOS as relatively fresh territory for cybercriminal activity.

Even if these malware-as-a-service threats don’t become popular, they could spur more cybercriminals to create similar programs. Given how pervasive IT security challenges are across other platforms, the last thing enterprises need is a litany of ransomware and spyware for Macs being peddled on the Dark Web.

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Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives in Toronto.