Pirated Software for MacOS Comes with Malware

software for macOS with malware
Written by Carina Wilson

The researchers found a campaign targeting macOS users when software for the operating system comes with malware. Attackers attack users with malicious versions of software, including Final Cut Pro, which is practically undetectable by antiviruses.

The malicious variant is distributed via torrents and contains the XMRig miner, which mines the Monero cryptocurrency on victims’ machines.

Let me remind you that we also wrote that The macOS update provoked a panic of video editors in Hollywood, and also that Vulnerability in iOS and macOS Allowed Eavesdropping on Siri Conversations.

The problem was identified by Jamf Threat Labs, who traced it back to malicious torrents posted on The Pirate Bay by user wtfisthat34698409672. It is noted that since 2019, this user has published other applications for macOS, including Adobe Photoshop and Logic Pro X, all of which contained a cryptocurrency mining payload.

software for macOS with malware

A deeper analysis of these attacks led the researchers to the conclusion that the malware has already gone through three stages of development, and each time the operators of this campaign used more sophisticated methods to evade detection. Interestingly, security solutions consistently detect only the first generation of this threat, which stopped spreading back in April 2021.

software for macOS with malware

Experts write that starting from the first generation, this malware uses i2p (Invisible Internet Project) to communicate with C&C servers and anonymize traffic. This functionality is still relevant for all versions of malware.

The second generation of malware was used for a relatively short time, between April 2021 and October 2021, and used base 64 for executable files hidden in applications.

The third generation appeared in October 2021. Since May 2022, it has become the only and main distributed option. The great thing about this version is that it can disguise its malicious processes as system processes in Spotlight to avoid detection.

software for macOS with malware
Attack scheme

In addition, the latest version contains a special script that constantly monitors the Activity Monitor, and if it is running, the malware immediately terminates all its processes in order to remain hidden from the user.

macOS Ventura uses more stringent code signing checks, which can make hiding and running malware through user-launched apps, especially pirated ones, inefficient.

In this case, the attackers modified Final Cut Pro only partially, keeping the original code signing certificate intact, but Ventura still invalidated it because it detected changes in the software.

On the other hand, macOS Ventura did not prevent the miner from running. By the time the user receives the error message, the malware will already be installed.the researchers note.

An Apple spokesperson says that this particular malware is already under their watch, and the company is already working on updates in XProtect to effectively block it (including the specific variants listed in the Jamf Threat Labs report).

Let me remind you that information security specialists also talked about the fact that Vulnerability allows reading encrypted Apple Mail letters on macOS.

About the author

Carina Wilson

With over 10 years' experience of writing for online and print media, I'm an expert in delivering clear and compelling copy.

I've written for a leading SEO copywriting agency as well as writing for some of the UK’s best known brands, magazines and newspapers.

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