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Researchers tricked Apple into approving an app loaded with malware

Posted: , posted by Alan F.

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Researchers tricked Apple into approving an app loaded with malware
Researchers at Georgia Tech managed to get an app approved by Apple and posted on the Apple App Store. But unlike other apps, this one was a ticking time bomb. Inside the app, researchers placed fragments of code that were programmed to come together and assemble itself into malware. The program, aptly code named Jekyll, could send emails, tweets and texts under the radar while at the same time it could grab a device's ID number, steal personal information, take pictures and attack other apps. And it could even send mobile Safari to a page containing even more malware. In other words, this app could have been an iPhone user's worst nightmare.

The good news is that the researchers quickly took down the listing after it was posted for just a few minutes back in March. No innocent iPhone installed the app. The Georgia Tech team, on the other hand, downloaded the program and infected their own device. The researchers were able to tell that Apple ran the program for only a few seconds before giving it a stamp of approval. Unless it ran the app for a longer period of time, Apple would never know about the malware because the bad code was hidden in separate small "code gadgets" hidden by a legitimate app. Once the app was approved, the code was designed to stitch together to form the troublesome malware that could wreak havoc on an iPhone.

Apple's review process is not doing enough to safeguard the App Store. That is the message that researchers are broadcasting following the ruse. Long Lu, a member of the research team says, "The message we want to deliver is that right now, the Apple review process is mostly doing a static analysis of the app, which we say is not sufficient because dynamically generated logic cannot be very easily seen." Lu adds that it is possible that some apps on the App Store are malware and have just not yet been detected.

source: MITTechnologyReview via GIGaom

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