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Chancers try to flog lame Mac malware for $60 a pop

Cross-platform NetWeird pathogen FAIL

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Cybercrooks are attempting to obtain few bucks for a lame piece of Mac malware, dubbed NetWeird.

NetWeird (AKA NetWeirdRC) has been offered for sale for the princely sum of $60 through underground cyber-crime forums, according to Mac security specialist Intego. The cross-platform malware potentially affects OS X (versions 10.6 and higher), Windows, Linux and Solaris.

Like the Crisis superworm, Netweird is a commercial remote access tool. However that's where the similarities end. Crisis – the first strain of malware capable of infecting virtual machines – is effective in both hiding itself and infecting systems, unlike Netweird.

"While OSX/Crisis is an advanced threat which hides itself reasonably well, OSX/NetWeirdRC has a number of glaring issues. Perhaps the price-tag tells us all we need to know: OSX/Crisis sells for €200,000 [$250,500], and OSX/NetWeirdRC starts at $60," a write-up on the threat by Mac security specialists Intego explains.

Worse yet (or better yet, if you're a target), NetWeird simply doesn't work. "In testing, it was found that this malware is not persistent – perhaps due to a bug, it does not restart after a reboot, and will lie dormant unless it is manually restarted or removed," Intego researcher Lysa Myers explains. "It does add itself to the login items, but this does not succeed in restarting the malware; it will only open the user’s home folder at login instead."

Indications are that Netweird hasn't affected Windows or *Nix machines either and it only came to light because somebody submitted a sample of the malware to VirusTotal.

An assessment of NetWeird by Paul Ducklin, Sophos's head of technology, Asia Pacific, is even more dismissive.

"It's not very well-written; it's not very well-tested; it's probably not going to catch you unawares (but watch out if you're in a band!); and so far as we can tell, it's not in the wild," Ducklin concludes.

"NetWeird is interesting primarily because it is uninteresting," he adds, explaining that "it seems that the crooks really are getting into the habit of churning out new Mac malware, not to show how clever they are, but merely to see if they can repeat the trick that's worked on Windows for years: making money out of next to nothing."

NetWeird is lame partly because it installs itself into the target's home directory as an application bundle called WIFIADAPT.app.app, making its presence on compromised systems obvious. And even that functionality is buggy.

"It adds itself to your login items, presumably with the intention of loading up every time you reboot your Mac. But a bug means that it adds itself as a folder, not an application. All that happens when you log back in is that Finder pops up and displays your home directory," Ducklin writes in a blog post on the malware.

NetWeird is designed to phone home for instructions from a hacker-controlled server, hosted in the Netherlands. It's unclear how the malware would work, though presumably it would be part of a targeted attack and it would come with a custom dropper designed to get a user into run a file through social engineering (eg, fooling marks into thinking it was a Flash player update needed to view salacious content).

The malware is designed to snatch sensitive data (such as browser and email passwords) from compromised machines, but this is unlikely to happen, especially for users running the latest version of Apple's operating system software.

Netweird is not from the App Store and isn't digitally signed by an Apple-endorsed developer, so it won't run on machines running the default security settings built into Mountain Lion, says Sophos. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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