Apple blocks Chinese attempt to spy on iPhones

Apple on Thursday fought back against newly discovered malware used to spy on Chinese iPhone users. 

The company has blocked all the apps that served as a Trojan Horse for the malware, which would infect a user’s computer when opened.

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“We are aware of malicious software available from a download site aimed at users in China, and we’ve blocked the identified apps to prevent them from launching,” Apple said in a statement.

Security Company Palo Alto Networks discovered the nefarious technique, called WireLurker. 

Hackers had placed their malware in nearly 500 apps in the Chinese app store for Mac computers. 

Nearly 350,000 unsuspecting users downloaded those apps, infecting their computer when the app was opened. The virus waited until the user hooked up an iPhone or iPad to the computer, then scraped up all the data it could.

In many ways, it was a unique hacking method, the firm said. The researchers hadn’t previously seen malware jump to mobile Mac devices through a USB connection.

The malware itself, however, is “in its infancy” and “fairly amateur,” said Mac security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski in a blog post. But it has exposed a serious security flaw that in the hands of a government agency or any “sophisticated attacker” could “easily be weaponized,” he warned. 

The Chinese government has reportedly been targeting Apple with hacks in recent weeks, hoping to gather information on the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The same week Apple released its iPhone in China, it was revealed the government had infiltrated the company’s iCloud, collecting troves of passwords and communications.