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This devious Mac malware has developers in its crosshairs

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Malware analysts have shared new details about the infamous XCSSET malware that targets Mac devices around the world.

XCSSET first came into the spotlight in August 2020, when it was spotted inside Apple projects developed using the free Xcode integrated development environment (IDE). A variant of the malware was then discovered designed specifically to target M1-powered Macs.

Now, cybersecurity researchers at Trend Micro have once again found an updated version of the malware that’s taken on new features and can target popular apps including Telegram and Google Chrome.

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“The changes we’ve encountered in XCSSET do not reflect a fundamental change in its behavior but do constitute refinements in its tactics,” note the researchers in a blog post analyzing XCSSET’s information stealing capabilities.

Targeting developers

The XCSSET malware is particularly troublesome since its infection mechanism can be used to launch supply-chain-like attacks.

The malware works by injecting malicious code into local Xcode projects, which executes every time the project is built. This poses an issue not just for the developers, but also for any downstream users that run the software infected with the malware.

Trend Micro has been monitoring the malware since last year and recently learnt how it steals information. Using the examples of Telegram and Google Chrome, the researchers explained how the malware exfiltrates information to its command and control (C2) servers.  

“Not all executable files are sandboxed on macOS, which means a simple script can steal all the data stored in the sandbox directory,” say the researchers, asking application developers not to store sensitive data, such as login information, in the sandbox directory.

Besides Telegram, and Chrome, Trend Micro also found scripts that targeted other popular apps as well including Opera, Skype, Evernote, WeChat, and more.

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.