For years, many have believed that computers — both laptops and desktops — created by Apple were immune to malware but that simply isn’t the case. While Apple’s macOS is considerably more secure than Windows because of the fact that the operating system is Unix-based, which provides a handful of “built-in security features,” it certainly isn’t impenetrable, according to a report from MacWorld.
Apple has also bundled other security measures within its operating system to ward off malicious attacks, including Gatekeeper, which blocks unapproved software from running on a Mac without the user’s approval. However, the constant fine-tuning of harmful software still poses a threat to macOS. It has recently been discovered that an “active strain of Mac malware” has managed to bypass Apple’s Gatekeeper program simply by being a Windows application or executable (.exe), according to a report from Laptop Magazine.
The discovery was made by researchers from Trend Micro. The researchers explained that attempting to run a Window’s.exe file on a Mac or Linux OS usually presents an error message but this malware works a little differently.
“[It works by] delivering a malicious payload that overrides Mac’s built-in protection mechanisms such as Gatekeeper. This routine evades Gatekeeper because EXE is not checked by this software, bypassing the code signature check and verification since the technology only checks native Mac files,” Trend Mico’s Don Ladores and Luis Magisa explained.
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The Windows malware reportedly comes attached to pirated copies of popular Mac programs downloaded from torrent sites. After being installed, the malware can gather sensitive information on the system. It also attempts to introduce more Mac malware and adware to the already infected device. The malware has already infected computers running macOS in several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
“We think that the cybercriminals are still studying the development and opportunities from this malware bundled in apps and available in torrent sites,” the researchers said.
Mac users can avoid picking up this malware by not downloading bootleg software from torrent sites or other unverified third-party sources. Users can also install additional Mac-compatible antivirus programs that will provide system-wide checks for Windows malware.
Earlier this month, researchers found another Mac-targeted piece of malware, CookieMiner, which has been documented to steal passwords and login credentials from the Chrome browser. It can also access stored iTunes backups of text messages and other information to bypass two-factor authentication. The malware also steals browser authentication cookies for cryptocurrency exchanges in order to gain access to cryptocurrency wallets and then wipes out the available cryptocurrency, according to MacWorld.