This dangerous new Mac malware is being spread by Google Ads

Hooded script kiddie taking laptop out of suitcase, prepared to launch DDoS attack. Close up shot of scammer at computer desk getting notebook from bag, starting work on malware script, camera B
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Hackers are running malicious Google Ads campaigns targeting victims interested in the new Arc browser, with the aim of installing information-stealing malware on their Mac devices.

Cybersecurity researchers from Malwarebytes spotted a new campaign on the Google Ads network, seemingly promoting the new (and quite popular) Arc browser.

The campaign belongs to ‘Coles & Co’ and is linking to the domain name archost[.]org. However, people who click on the link are redirected to arc-download[.]com, a completely fraudulent site offering Arc for Mac only.

PR move

On the surface, the downloaded DMG file behaves just as a legitimate file would, except for the right-click to open trick which bypasses security protections.

What the victims actually end up with is Poseidon, a variant of Atomic Stealer (AMOS), a known infostealer capable of extracting all kinds of information from the target devices, from sensitive files, to cryptocurrency wallet data, to stored passwords, to browser data.

There seems to be plenty of code overlapping between AMOS and Poseidon, but its creator - a person with the alias Rodrigo4 - said they needed a unique brand to be better recognized in the underground community. 

“In simple words, people didn’t know who we were,” the developer said in a recent post.

Since the Google Ads network can show ads at the top of search engine results pages, being able to push malware through increases its chances for success dramatically. 

To run a malvertising campaign, threat actors steal people’s Google business accounts, verified for running advertising campaigns and having a linked credit card for payments. Then, they create an ad campaign which promotes fraudulent websites on the top of search engine results pages. Recently, cybersecurity experts started warning users to be careful when searching for things, and to type in known addresses instead of simply googling them.

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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.