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Sunday, 02 September 2018 06:48

Attackers target Macs in campaign focused on Gulf region

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Attackers target Macs in campaign focused on Gulf region Pixabay

A group of attackers known as WindShift, suspected to be backed by a nation-state, has been using vulnerabilities in Apple's macOS operating system to target specific individuals in government and critical infrastructure across the Persian Gulf.

Forbes reported that this information had come from UAE-based Taha Karim, a security researcher at a company known as DarkMatter, who said the intended victims came from the Gulf states – Kuwait, Bahrain, the Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The attack vector was the usual phishing mail; when links within it were clicked, malware known as WindTale and WindTape from the attackers' website was downloaded to the victim's computer.

Karim claimed that the malware was able to get past native macOS security measures and could exfiltrate documents and also take screenshots of a victim's desktop.

In a synopsis of a talk on the malware attacks — on which he presented a paper at the Hack in the Box conference in Singapore on 30 August — Karim said the WindShift advanced persistent threat was "an obscure cyber espionage actor, discovered recently targeting individuals working at a government".

"This actor has a dedicated and advanced spear phishing infrastructure, able to serve spear phishing emails and SMS to track individuals continuously during the reconnaissance phase, and deceiving targets during the credentials harvesting phases through the impersonation of global and local platform providers."

He said what differentiated WindShift from other APT actors was its "focus on specific individuals for espionage and surveillance purposes and their very hard-to-attribute modus operandi".

WindShift rarely engaged targets with malware. "DarkMatter uncovered very few targeted attacks from this actor and was able to uncover and analyse macOS malware used," Karim said.

"Finally, WindShift has unique macOS infection tricks abusing macOS native functionalities to automatically spread malware to targets."

iTWire has contacted DarkMatter for further comment. Forbes said it had contacted Apple for comment, but not received a response.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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