Surveillence outfit Hacking Team may have released a new piece of OS X malware

The malware packs a few new tricks, and AV software wasn't detecting it at first

Security researchers have identified a new piece of OS X malware that may come from Hacking Team, the controversial Italian company that sells surveillance software to governments.

The malware is a "dropper," which is used to plant other software onto a computer. In this case, it appears intended to install Hacking Team's Remote Control System (RCS).

"The dropper is using more or less the same techniques as older Hacking Team RCS samples, and its code is more or less the same," wrote Pedro Vilaca, an OS X security expert with SentinelOne, on his blog.

It's difficult to determine if Hacking Team is using the dropper or if someone else took the code and has added a few improvements. Hacking Team suffered a devastating data breach in July 2015 that saw the release of 400GB of data, including source code and exploits.

"Either this is an old sample or HackingTeam are still using the same code base as before the hack," Vilaca wrote.

Two variations of the code were uploaded about three weeks ago to VirusTotal, the free scanning service from Google. At that time, no antivirus products detected the code.

One of the improvements is that the malware uses Apple's native OS X encryption scheme and a custom packing method, wrote Patrick Wardle, director of research with the Synack.

Vilaca wrote that it also uses an anti-debugging trick to make analysis by security researchers more difficult. Still, Vilaca wasn't complimentary about the new sample.

"Until now, nothing spectacular," he wrote. "Either this is an old sample or HackingTeam are still using the same code base as before the hack."

Hacking Team has been accused in the past by privacy and human rights groups of selling its software to governments with poor human rights records. 

The leaked data included a client list and indicated Hacking Team had relationships with governments such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

The company remained defiant after the hacking, saying it did not sell tools to governments illegally. Despite such a large data breach, Hacking Team remains in business.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?