Windows worm slips into iOS App Store, climbs into hipsters' pockets
Further proof that Instagram fanbois are diseased
An item of Windows malware has managed to make its way onto Apple's iOS App Store. It's likely to have been an accidental screw-up, but it nonetheless raises concerns about Apple's app-screening process.
The malicious Windows executable was found by a user who downloaded an app called "Instaquotes-Quotes Cards For Instagram" from iTunes before his security software warned him that the file was infected with a worm. A closer look at the incident, which might have easily been a false alarm by his security software, a not infrequent occurrence, revealed that the threat was all too real.
The file contained a worm variously identified as CoiDung-A by Sophos, Worm-VB-900 by ClamAV and VB-CB by Microsoft. Apple pulled the Instaquotes app from the iOS App Store on Tuesday, shortly after it emerged that the app was tainted with malware. The worm at the centre of the security flap is quite old, and hence widely detected, and not especially potent.
The user who downloaded the app posted his discovery on the Apple Support Communities discussion board, where other users were quickly able to confirm that warnings generated by security software were well-founded.
MacRumors reports that the price of the app, which has been available since 19 July, was reduced from $0.99 to free this last weekend. It's unclear how many people download the app.
The malware can't actually run on a Windows PC without first being extracted from the iOS application package, a factor that means it is unlikely even those Mac users who downloaded the app could spread it to their Windows by infecting friends and colleagues. And, of course, iPhones and iPads can't run Windows programs. The tainted app can't infect a Mac OS X machine either.
What's worse than a worm inside an Apple?
The spread of the malware was probably caused by the accidental infection of a developer's computer, although deliberate infection can't immediately be ruled out. The tainted app made it through Apple's approval process, which has to be the main area of concern.
"Perhaps what's most disappointing about the discovery of Windows malware inside an iOS app is that Apple doesn't seem to have conducted a simple virus scan as part of its app-vetting process," notes Joshua Long, in a post on Sophos' Naked Security blog. "Just extracting all files from the package, and scanning them with anti-virus software, would have prevented the Windows malware from getting into the iOS App Store in the first place."
Earlier this month, Apple approved another questionable iOS app. Find and Call collected contact information from smartphones before uploading this data and sending SMS text message spam to a user's contacts, all without warning the user or asking for permission.
The malware embedded in Instaquotes cannot cause any direct harm to Apple smartphones and tablets, unlike Find and Call. However the appearance of a tainted copy of Instaquotes just weeks after the Find and Call security flap suggests it would be unwise to assume Apple's iOS App Store "walled garden" was impregnable.
In fairness it ought to be pointed out iOS malware, certainly on devices that have not been jailbroken, had been virtually unheard of for five whole years from the launch of the App Store up until the start of this month – a huge achievement. ®
Users of Mac desktops who are conscious about internet hygiene often run anti-virus software for much the same reason that it's a useful addition on Linux file-servers and mail-servers: to clear out any Windows-based malware. Even though these machines can't catch a Windows bug they can become "Typhoid Marys" that spread infection. The Flashback Trojan finally proved that Mac malware was a problem and isolated cases of Linux worms have cropped up occasionally for years, but Windows malware remains the biggest enemy.
Re: *bring back El Reg gravestone icon*
You cannot be serious about this. By now it's likely that ANY sufficiently large binary file will match some malware signature if you take all platforms and architectures.
Let's start with how they'd do the scan shall we? You don't scan the entire package, you extract it giving lot's of those nice little files contained within. You then scan those, accepting either a higher false-positive or higher false-negative rate (the former being more expensive as you have to review, the latter posing a greater risk to your customers).
As I said later in my post, even limiting it to common platforms would be a start. Scan for iOS, Windows and OSX nasties. Sure, if you really want, scan for Android nasties, but you know what? Unless the iOS app has some means of pushing the malware to an Android device, it's less of a worry. People plug their phones into machines running Windows or OS X. This incident may not have had a way to then push that onto the system, but it doesn't mean that there isn't a way to do so (I find myself tempted to observe especially on Windows).
There's a world of difference between scanning for platforms which could be infected and scanning for those that are highly unlikely to come into sufficient contact. Considering the relative safety the walled garden is supposed to provide, not performing a proper scan is one hell of a fuck-up.
The flipside, of course, is that Apple may actually be doing it properly. It's not impossible that this was an isolated cock-up rather than a failure across the system. We have no way to know, but you can't avoid the fact that a responsible company should be checking thoroughly for malware.
You'd be pretty pissed if a Linux based webserver infected your Windows machine and the admin said "Why would I scan for Windows malware? It doesn't affect me, want me to scan for VAX malware too?" wouldn't you? iPhones/iPad's have a reasonable likelihood of coming into contact with a Windows machine and so Apple should be scanning for Windows based malware.
Re: I'm sorry
Because it show's they are (arguably) not being careful enough when checking Apps. This particular instance may have been an old piece of Windows malware that can't harm Apple's kit, but that doesn't make it OK. As the article notes, this particular nasty is detected by everything, indicating that Apple aren't bothering to scan for known malware.
Given that the walled garden has been pushed as providing greater security, it's kind of embarrassing to have something so easily caught slip through the net.
Of course, a realist would expect that something will always slip through, but you'd normally expect it to be something a bit harder to detect than a well-known (by the AV) piece of VB-Script.
So, it's not an issue for Apple users, but it's a minor embarrassment for Apple.
Answer your question?
Re: I'm sorry
Unused data which has no place in an app for iOS.