Thousands of iOS apps infected by XcodeGhost

Researchers from FireEye found over 4000 trojanized apps on the App Store

The impact of iOS app developers unknowingly using a rogue version of the Xcode development tool is turning out to be greater than initially thought: early reports listed just 39 apps that had been trojanized with the tool, but security researchers have since identified thousands more.

On Friday, security research firm Palo Alto Networks reported that 39 apps found in the App Store had been compromised after their developers -- most of them located in China -- used a rogue version of Xcode that had been distributed on forums. Xcode is a development tool for iOS and OS X apps provided by Apple.

The malicious Xcode version, which has been dubbed XcodeGhost by security researchers, added hidden functionality to any application compiled with it. Those apps were then uploaded by unknowing developers to the official App Store, bypassing one of the main malware defenses of the iOS ecosystem.

On Tuesday, mobile security firm Appthority reported that it had found 476 apps infected by XcodeGhost among those used by its enterprise customers.

"We had a closer look at the data and were able to track the start of the infection to April 2015 with a significant uptick in infections over this last month of September," the company's research team said in a blog post.

The hidden code added by XcodeGhost to applications collects identifying information about devices they're installed on and can open URLs. The rogue tool's creators could have added more harmful functionality, but they apparently chose not to, at least for now.

"Given our risk analysis results of infected apps regarding their actual behavior, we feel that 'AdWare' might be a more appropriate classification rather than malicious 'malware'," the Appthority researchers said,

Also Tuesday, researchers from security firm FireEye revealed that the real number of iOS apps trojanized by XcodeGhost is not in the tens or hundreds, but in the thousands. The company has identified over 4,000 infected apps so far on the App Store.

While the command-and-control servers used by XcodeGhost have been taken down, the malicious apps still try to connect to them using unencrypted HTTP connections, the FireEye researchers said in a blog post. Such HTTP sessions are vulnerable to hijacking by other attackers, it said.

Since security companies keep identifying more infected apps, it's hard for users to keep track of them manually or even to rely on a single product to detect them. All they can do is hope that Apple is working to remove the apps from the App Store and notify users.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?