Niche Mac malware targets bug in security product MacKeeper

A new piece of malware for Mac OS X systems may be a danger to anyone who’s installed the Mac security product MacKeeper.

Mac users who’ve installed the controversial security and cleanup tool MacKeeper are being targeted by malware that uses the product’s security alerts to dupe users into installing data stealing software.

Most Mac owners will be familiar with the name MacKeeper. It’s original developer, Ukraine-based ZeoBit, recently settled over a $5 million US class-action suit alleging it misleadingly alerted users to security threats to convince them to upgrade from the free version to the $39.95 premium version.

The company’s new owner, German firm Kromtech, is also one of the largest buyers of online ads that targets systems running Mac OS X.

Adding to the company’s awkward relationship with Mac users, researcher Braden Thomas last month found a critical vulnerability in MacKeeper’s URL handler that could allow remote attackers to take over a machine if the user visited an website in the Safari browser.

That flaw is now being exploited by malware, according to Sergei Shevchenko, a cyber research specialist with BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.

A victim would have to receive a phishing email that contains a malicious URL to exploit the flaw.

“Once clicked, the users running MacKeeper will be presented with a dialog [box] that suggests they are infected with malware, prompting them for a password to remove this. The actual reason is so that the malware could be executed with the admin rights,” said Shevchenko.

This mirrors the functionality described in the original exploit: “If users have already been asked by MacKeeper for their password during the normal operation of the program, the rogue command will execute automatically. If not, the program will prompt them for their password, but the text on the dialog window can also be altered by the exploit, SecureMac reported at the time.

Read more: The week in security: Android apps collecting your location data, home routers hit by drive-by malware

The malware goes beyond altering the dialogue window and installs a backdoor that gives the attacker remote access to the target computer, allowing them to extract files from the computer and install new files to the computer. The backdoor also collects system data, such as processes, the operating system name and version, the user name and the availability of VPN connections.

Questions remain over exactly how the malware authors would go about converting their software into installations and from there into revenue.

Mac OS X computers typically make up less than 10 percent share of the worldwide PC shipments and, according to Gartner, total desktop shipments totalled nearly 600 million last year.

Kromtech recently claimed that 20 million Mac users had installed MacKeeper, meaning it has a very small but not insignificant portion of Apple’s total desktop user base.

Read more: Beware of Russia’s Android malware “startups” and Twitter egg profiles

Shevchenko suggests the attackers might be “spraying” all Mac users with phishing emails to uncover vulnerable MacKeeper users.

The numbers would likely be small. However, another possible lure for the people behind the malware was information produced during the class-action against ZeoBit that showed that over 500,000 people had bought MacKeeper in the US — suggesting revenue of $26 million. Just two percent of this could be worthwhile, depending on how the prize was split up.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

Feeling social? Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn Now!

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Sergei ShevchenkoVPN connectionsMac OS XBAE SystemsmalwareBraden ThomasMacKeepercyber researchNiche Maconline adsSecureMacGartnermalware targetsKromtech

More about AppleCSOEnex TestLabGartnerTwitter

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Liam Tung

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place