New Threats to MacOS From Malware in Cryptocurrency Chats Could Turn Your Investment Dreams to Dust

The general perception that MacOS is a safe OS is increasingly under threat from waves of threats and a wide range of attack vectors that could impact any operating system. The latest threat sees crypto chats laden with malware to tempt those looking to make an online killing, but they could end up as another cyber victim.

By Chris Knight

The move to always online collaboration tools open up MacOS and all PC users to a new range of threats. Users can be talking online about areas of interest, such as cryptocurrency, a popular topic. All of a sudden, they are invited by an admin to download a command line code snippet as part of an intriguing crypto tool. Within seconds, their Mac can be infected by a nasty malware download that can allow for remote command execution.

Crypto is a hot target for hackers, either trying to gain a user’s account details or to replace the user’s account in mining software with the hackers, earning money for them. A recent McAfee Security Report (PDF) shows that cryptojacking attacks have risen by a hefty 629% in the opening months of 2018.

With thousands of coins seeking attention, looking to replicate the success of Bitcoin, and initial coin offerings (ICOs) competing with each other across a wide range of exchanges, there are millions of users looking to make a quick buck. This booming, free-for-all landscape is ripe for hackers to make a killing of their own.

Welcome OSX.Dummy

The early efforts as demonstrated by this recent attack are not particularly sophisticated (hence, the Dummy nickname). But, with people keen to make a profit on the latest crypto news, their guard may be down. The attack was originally reported by a Dutch security analyst and as with most threats, more sophisticated versions will be rapidly developed by better crackers to up the ante.

This latest threat is called OSX.Dummy and during the course of online chats, users are asked to download a code snippet, which becomes an unsigned download that can bypass the MacOS Gatekeeper protection tool.

Command line codes are quite common for bitcoin miners and others interested in crypto and alt coin currencies, so this type of discussion is not out of the ordinary. People use generic bitcoin miners to mine different currencies which often require patches, code updates and other tweaks to keep them working, with many open source projects open to malware injection or other risks.

The trouble is, hackers and scammers are not far behind on any legitimate post or forum. Slack, Twitter, Github messages and other chats are full of them, luring people in. Many are annoyances or obvious to avoid, but now hackers have set their sights on this market, the risk will only grow.

Hopefully, users will become more aware to the threats. But newcomers, tempted by the newer coins coming to market and with crypto currencies gaining wider interest, there will be a constant stream of them who will be at risk.

These non-technical users or experienced users who think they are safe, as they are using a Mac, and trying their luck at crypto could get stung in the process. OSX.Dummy might just be the first effort to take on Mac owners in this battle, but it won’t be the last. Mac owners can’t rely on Gatekeeper to remain safe, so will need all the other firewall, anti-intrusion and other tools to protect their networks.

Just how secure is blockchain?

Blockchain can’t keep out of the news at the moment, as vendors promise it will power the next-generation of IT security and services. In reality, the technology is still just taking baby-steps into the wider world beyond Bitcoin, where weaknesses have been brutally exposed in high-profile thefts. But when Blockchain does arrive, your business can use it securely, if you take the right precautions.

Blockchain is the generic name for online distributed ledgers that form the basis of a secure transaction technology. The ledgers are stored across many hundreds or thousands of machines making it very hard to perform fraudulent tasks. Cryptography stops hackers from spying on the data as it crosses networks and other measures in each product help protect transactions and make it useful for a particular market.

Famous for being the underpinning system for cryptocurrencies, it is making its way into business and industry. Current uses include supply chain, helping track goods and disrupt counterfeiters, and in legal and financial record keeping. But many more uses are on the horizon.

Just how secure is secure?

While the vendor’s hype machine bills blockchain as secure and safe, it relies on Internet technology, people keeping records and other weak links that a determined or lucky criminal can use to gain access to information or corrupt records. Any new technology will have flaws, so smart home cameras were easy to hack a couple of years back, and smart city infrastructure will be a key target, even as blockchain plays a role in security it.

At its worst, any blockchain service that stores data somewhere can easily be robbed, as we’ve seen with the many Bitcoin heists. That’s not blockchain’s fault, purely the fact that data, records or currency always has to be stored somewhere. And where there is a weakness, we will find someone willing to exploit it.

Then there’s the size and complexity of the blockchain. For a start, these slow down the transactions, which is why some Bitcoin or other crypto-based trades take days not seconds, which is no good for a retail business. Suitably powered services will be faster, but the complexity of the math involved will always create some lag, especially when slower devices like lower-end smartphones or Internet of Things devices are involved.

Finally, we all face the usual internet perils, these are beyond the control of any blockchain system using public servers or data pipes. Most blockchain products link a series of companies together in partnership, so if one has a weakness, no matter how secure the rest, it could be compromised.

Also, server and OS insecurity, backdoor trojans, human error, phishing scams and all the other hacker tools can impact a blockchain operation, no matter how internally secure it is. So, while blockchain will be “secure” it is unlikely to ever be completely bombproof.

Nothing can stop Blockchain

Despite these worries, nothing will stop blockchain become the ledger of choice for a huge range of vertical markets, businesses and services. That’s despite the media fallout from every outage or theft. It will also survive development and political trends around the world that develop as it becomes more popular and different use cases are found.

Some governments will ban variations if it keeps social media encrypted, While others will want only their approved versions (that their spies can monitor). It’s all the usual fun and games when any new technology arrives. Whatever the doom mongers say, we survived MP3, cloud, online banking, and many other disruptive technologies that are now commonplace.

Get ready for blockchain with strong IT

Regardless of all the wider hype, blockchain services are coming, and will impact your business soon. Whatever network or product you choose, or install as part of a larger service, ensuring you have sufficient network and data security will be a key part of protecting your end of the blockchain system.

When it comes to using blockchain, data and business security begins at the network architecture level. Any blockchain network requires a suitable number of nodes, with a strong level-of-control over nodes, plus the ability to lose, recover and add new nodes in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of business.

When the network is operational, control over permissions and transaction management will differ between private blockchains and their public equivalents. Ensuring your system is fast enough for business use, but secure and robust enough to verify transactions is a key decision.

KokoBo can ensure your business systems and data are secure, and will be able to provide the latest advice on security issues and weaknesses that might be a problem. When it comes to blockchain, the complexity involved means that many companies might not be able to set it up securely, and we will be able to assist with that.