Security experts have discovered a new kind of malware that specifically targets users of Apple devices in "the biggest scale we have ever seen," revealing that hackers are becoming more adept at breaking through the security systems of Macs and iPhones.
The malware, which has been named WireLurker, was discovered by Palo Alto Networks, a security firm that is based in Santa Clara, California.
In the company's report on WireLurker, it states that the malware infects the OS X operating system of Apple's Mac desktop computers and then downloads apps into any iPhone that connects to the infected computers through a USB cable.
Once that has been completed, WireLurker can then extract information regarding the user and the device, including the user's Apple ID, contact information in the address book, and the recipients of iMessages.
The malware first infected a total of 467 OS X third-party apps, which have been downloaded over 350,000 times over the previous six months through the Chinese Maiyadi App store.
Users of iPhones will only be able to download and install third-party apps if they have chosen to jailbreak their iPhones, or if they have been able to install non-approved apps by Apple through any other means. What WireLurker represents, however, is an issue that threatens all iPhones, jailbroken or not, as the malware can latch onto an iPhone through an infected Mac.
"It's a big step forward for attackers on this platform. They've been doing things that they've never been able to do in the past," said Palo Alto Networks threat intelligence director Ryan Olson.
With Apple's recent entry into mobile payments with Apple Pay, Olson added that even more hackers will be attempting to break into iPhones because of the added value in compromising the devices.
One of the advantages that Apple devices have over Android devices was that Apple devices were less prone to malware attacks due to the regulation on what can be downloaded by iPhone users. Apps being offered on Apple's App Store are first reviewed before being published, which meant that Apple devices generally have better security.
While Apple has already blocked the apps that have been infected by WireLurker, users can further protect their Macs and iPhones through a variety of ways.
First is that users should not jailbreak their iPhones to be able to download and install unapproved third-party apps, which are more likely to contain malware such as WireLurker.
Next, Mac users should always have an updated antivirus program on their computers, and security updates for both iPhones and Macs should be installed immediately upon release.
Lastly, users should be wary of plugging in their iPhones into Macs that are not their own. For charging purposes, it is always safer to use the wall charger instead.