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Mysterious Malware has infected 30,000 M1-Based Macs Worldwide with concentrations in the US, UK, Canada, France, and Germany

1 X Cover M1 malware report


A previously undetected piece of malware has been discovered on almost 30,000 Macs worldwide according to a new research report. It's generating intrigue in security circles, which are still trying to understand precisely what it does and what purpose its self-destruct capability serves.


Once an hour, infected Macs check a control server to see if there are any new commands the malware should run or binaries to execute. So far, however, researchers have yet to observe delivery of any payload on any of the infected 30,000 machines, leaving the malware’s ultimate goal unknown. The lack of a final payload suggests that the malware may spring into action once an unknown condition is met.


Also curious, the malware comes with a mechanism to completely remove itself, a capability that’s typically reserved for high-stealth operations. So far, though, there are no signs the self-destruct feature has been used, raising the question why the mechanism exists.


Besides those questions, the malware is notable for a version that runs natively on the M1 chip that Apple introduced in November, making it only the second known piece of macOS malware to do so. The malicious binary is more mysterious still, because it uses the macOS Installer JavaScript API to execute commands. That makes it hard to analyze installation package contents or the way that package uses the JavaScript commands.


The malware has been found in 153 countries with detections concentrated in the US, UK, Canada, France, and Germany. Its use of Amazon Web Services and the Akamai content delivery network ensures the command infrastructure works reliably and also makes blocking the servers harder. Researchers from Red Canary, the security firm that discovered the malware, are calling the malware Silver Sparrow.


Red Canary researchers wrote in a blog post published on Friday: "Though we haven’t observed Silver Sparrow delivering additional malicious payloads yet, its forward-looking M1 chip compatibility, global reach, relatively high infection rate, and operational maturity suggest Silver Sparrow is a reasonably serious threat, uniquely positioned to deliver a potentially impactful payload at a moment’s notice. Given these causes for concern, in the spirit of transparency, we wanted to share everything we know with the broader infosec industry sooner rather than later."


Patrick Wardle, a macOS security expert, wrote in an Internet message: "To me, the most notable [thing] is that it was found on almost 30K macOS endpoints... and these are only endpoints the MalwareBytes can see, so the number is likely way higher. That’s pretty widespread... and yet again shows the macOS malware is becoming ever more pervasive and commonplace, despite Apple’s best efforts."


For those who want to check if their Mac has been infected, Red Canary provides indicators of compromise at the end of its report. Source: Ars Technica


Apple's M1 processor has created equal buzz and fear in the traditional PC market. Intel's campaign against Apple new M1 processor has been ongoing and now an attack with malware for the new processor that seems to be waiting for more M1's to infect over time before delivering its payload.  The mystery payload could slow sales of M1 Macs until this has been dealt with. The faster Apple deals with this, the better.


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