Although Macs have traditionally been seen as offering better security against malware than Windows PCs, it isn’t completely immune. The recent reports of the latest malware targeting macOS, especially the crippling ransomware kind, show that Apple’s desktop platform is gaining popularity as a target by malware writers and hackers. In addition, a report on a replacement quite malware shows just how exciting macOS is becoming to those malicious actors that have revived an almost forgotten Windows spyware to feature support for targeting Macs.
Formbook launched in 2016 and abruptly disappeared in 2017 as Windows-only spyware that collected screenshots, logged keystrokes, and even executed files from remote servers. The author claimed it had been meant to be easy spyware, but buyers of that malware started using it for email campaigns. As a result, Formbook’s author distanced himself from such activities and removed the malware from the sale.
Nearly four years later, Formbook resurfaces as XLoader with just about an equivalent feature but with one crucial difference. To selling time-limited copies for Windows, the new author, which can or might not be associated with the first Formbook author, is additionally selling licenses of the malware for macOS for less than $49. At that price, XLoader threatens to infect any macOS and potentially expose users’ credentials to hackers.
On the one hand, XLoader’s point of infection is pretty primary despite the malware’s advanced features. It uses tried and tested email phishing scams to urge targets to click on links or download attachments. Unfortunately, once a Mac is infected, XLoader is in a position to evade many antivirus programs and Apple’s security checks.
On the opposite hand, Check Point Research’s discovery of this resurrected spyware also proves how macOS is increasingly becoming the target of such malicious activities. The more Mac owners there are, the larger the audience, the upper the probabilities of attacks paying off. It also challenges long-held assumptions that Macs are inherently safer than PCs, which can are just a side-effect of getting fewer users within the past.