​Apple to ween Chinese iOS devs off pirated Xcode with faster downloads

Apple says it is working out a way to give Chinese developers faster access to Xcode tampered copies were used to slip thousands of infected iOS apps into the App Store.

The move is aimed at addressing Chinese developers who resort to locally hosted pirated copies of Xcode despite the fact its freely available from Apple. Hackers published tampered with versions of Apple’s developer tool, resulting in thousands of legitimate but infected iOS apps slipping into the App Store.

"We’re working to make it faster for developers in China to download Xcode betas," Apple says a Q&A about the incident.

Apple began mopping up its App Store on Sunday after several security firms reported what’s turned out to be around 4,000 iOS apps infected with malware known as XcodeGhost.

On Wednesday Apple advised developers to download Xcode from the Mac App Store or from its developer website, as well as enabling the OS X security feature Gatekeeper to validate the copy of Xcode isn’t tampered with. Copies available from these sources are signed by Apple with its Developer ID.

It didn’t however address the reason why Chinese developers were choosing to install pirated copies of Xcode when the real version was freely available. Slow download speeds, thought to be caused by China’s internet filter, make it painfully slow to download files from servers located outside China and has given some security experts cause to believe similar incidents will almost certainly occur.

US security and website accelerator firm CloudFlare this week announced a partnership with Chinese search firm Baidu to address this issue of slow access to foreign websites.

Apple chief of marketing Phil Schiller acknowledged the challenges Chinese developers face this week in China, explaining that Xcode took 25 minutes to download in the US compared with three hours from China. According to AppleInsider, Apple will soon start hosting a copy of Xcode on Chinese servers.

Apple has also published a list of the top 25 apps that were infected with the malware, which include WeChat, Uber rival Didi Taxi and BaiduMusic.

Read more: Researcher finds iOS flaw to bypass App Store code signing

“After the top 25 impacted apps, the number of impacted users drops significantly,” Apple said.

“We’re not aware of personally identifiable customer data being impacted and the code also did not have the ability to request customer credentials to gain iCloud and other service passwords,” it added.

“Developers are quickly updating their apps for users. Malicious code could only have been able to deliver some general information such as the apps and general system information.”


Read more: New Sydney office anchors iSIGHT's Australian threat-intelligence expansion

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