Apple Mac users are comparatively safe when it comes to malware as most malware variants target Windows users; however, the number of malware variants targeting Mac users has been increasing. When there is a very low risk of a malware infection, it is easy to become complacent, but threats do come along so it is important to remain on one’s guard.
That is especially true now as a new malware threat has been discovered and Mac users are in the attackers’ crosshairs. Further, this is not some half-baked malware. This is a very serious threat. This new malware variant is very malicious, very dangerous, and it has been getting past Apple Mac security defenses.
The threat is more likely to be familiar to Windows users, as it is them who have previously been targeted; however, the malware has now jumped platforms and is being used to target Mac users. The malware is a new variant of FormBook malware. FormBook malware is a well-known commercially available malware that has been around since 2016. The malware, which was rebranded as XLoader last year, is sold as-a-service on hacking forums and is usually delivered via malicious attachments in emails – often PowerPoint documents. The malware has been developed to log keystrokes and, as the name suggests, grab data from online forms when input by users. It can also steal data from instant messenger apps, email clients, and FTP clients. In the latter half of 2020, attacks involving the malware increased substantially, and during the first 6 months of 2021 it has been prolific.
The Apple version of the malware similarly has a wide range of malicious capabilities. It will harvest credentials from web browsers, steal form data, take screenshots, monitor and log keystrokes, and can also download and execute files from the attackers’ C2 servers. The malware also incorporates several features to resist attempts at reverse engineering.
The Mac version of XLoader is under active development and it is likely that throughout the remainder of 2021 it will grow into an even bigger threat. Already, this version is able to move much deeper into systems and move much faster.
Mac users may be complacent as they are not often targeted, but this is not due to Macs being harder to attack. Malware developers simply choose to target Windows devices as there are many more users that can be targeted. Fewer Mac users mean the potential profits from attacks will be lower, but attacks are growing and the complacency of Mac users works to the advantage of attackers. It makes it easier to get their malware installed as users are not anticipating threats. A much broader range of threat actors will be able to use the latest XLoader version and target Mac users, as they can simply pay a licensing fee and use it under the malware-as-a-serve model. That fee can be as low as $69.
As with the Windows campaigns, XLoader is primarily delivered via phishing emails, mostly using malicious Microsoft Office documents. Check Point says it has tracked infections in 69 countries, although the majority of infected devices are in the United States.
Since the malware can bypass Mac security defenses, it is important to check whether it has already been installed by looking for suspicious filenames in the LaunchAgents directory in the library, which is normally hidden from view. While various different file names have been used, an example of XLoader is com.wznlVRt83Jsd.HPyT0b4Hwxh.plist.
Blocking attacks is actually straightforward. Antivirus software should be installed and kept up to date, and businesses should implement a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to block the malicious emails that deliver the malware. End users should also exercise caution opening emails and should never open attachments or click links in emails from unknown sources or click unsolicited links in messaging apps.