A multitude of apps in Apple’s Chinese App Store contained a form of malware that recently bypassed Apple’s code screening process. Researchers at FireEye have found approximately 4,000 apps to be infected with the XcodeGhost malware, affecting hundreds of millions iOS users worldwide. Once downloaded, these malicious applications have the potential to obtain and utilize device and user information, though Apple has saidthey’ve found nothing to suggest any malicious activity as of yet.
Xcode is an integrated development environment (IDE) which contains a suite of software development tools generated by Apple for the development of software for OS X and platforms. XcodeGhost is the malware found in unofficial versions of Xcode downloaded by Chinese developers. It has the capability to modify Xcode and infects iOS applications. WeChat and Angry Birds 2 are just a couple of examples of popular infected applications that are now being updated in the App Store with malware free versions, while many other iOS applications identified as being infected with XcodeGhost are temporarily unavailable. In conjunction with this, Apple has sent email notifications to affected developers, thus instructing them to recompile their products by official Xcode, and to re-submit accordingly in order to prevent future breaches. Is it too late however? Has the damage been done?
Some are labelling this incident as a “first of its kind security breach” exposing a vulnerability and security gap in Apple’s mobile platform, which was once conceptualized as being the most secure of its kind. It is important to note that there was a failure to identify this malware prior to it infiltrating Apple and its users. How did this happen and how may this have been prevented? With modern day tools and technologies in place to protect against such occurrences, how will organizations such as Apple move forward in addressing this security gap?
What one can deduce from this incident is that, contrary to popular belief, Apple is not in fact more safe and secure than PC/Android. Does this incident mean reduced credibility and competitive advantage for Apple within the market? I suppose that is something yet to be determined. What we do know for certain, however, is that there is a security gap which is very much in existence today. Users, unfortunately, are not as aware as they should be when downloading files and applications, especially when the applications in question are being hosted by a “trustworthy” source such as the App Store.