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Apple Rapidly moves to Block Malware from Launching in China

1 AF - COVER GRAPHIC FOR PATENTLY APPLE REPORT NOV 6, 2014

Apple's iPhone 6 was to launch in China the same day it was in the US but hit a great political wall in China. After unprecedented regulatory scrutiny, Apple also had to reassure the Chinese government that their new smartphones didn't have security "backdoors" through which U.S. agencies can access users' data. Despite that road bump, Apple's pre-orders for the iPhone 6 soared followed by iPhone mania hitting retails stores a week later. Apple's iPhone 6 is a huge hit in China. Maybe too big a hit as new malware is now beginning to hit a fraction of China's new iPhone users. Today Apple confirmed they're on top of this situation. However the timing of this new discovery feels a little like a FUD tactic – though from who, of course, is the $64,000 question.

 

Apple released a written statement to the Wall Street Journal today stating that "We are aware of malicious software available from a download site aimed at users in China, and we've blocked the identified apps to prevent them from launching."

 

Oddly Palo Alto Networks actually put out a press release on the problem instead of it being a private matter between them and Apple or simply making a brief comment to the press. Yesterday's press release stated that "Palo Alto Networks found the malicious code in 467 apps on China's Maiyadi App Store for Mac computers. The apps had been downloaded more than 356,000 times." 

 

The malware dubbed "WireLurker" was discovered by Claud Xiao of Unit 42, the Palo Alto Networks threat intelligence team.

 

Palo Alto Networks noted on their website that "WireLurker is unlike anything we've ever seen in terms of Apple iOS and OS X malware. The techniques in use suggest that bad actors are getting more sophisticated when it comes to exploiting some of the world's best-known desktop and mobile platforms. As such we have provided full protection to Palo Alto Networks customers and published a detailed report so others can assess the risk and take appropriate measures to protect themselves."

 

– Ryan Olson, Intelligence Director, Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks

 

Of course Apple had to take this reported threat seriously and moved rapidly to deal with it. And perhaps Palo Alto should be applauded for catching this malware quickly, even though their press release sounds more like an advertisement than anything else. You could read the full press release here.

 

What's your take on this? Send in your comments below.

 

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