New ransomware attacks show Macs aren’t as safe as many believe
- April 5, 2016
- Posted by: newhorizons
- Category: New horizons news
New ransomware attacks show Macs aren't as safe as many believe
3/7/2016 3:03:00 PM
Macs have long been held as the gold standard of cybersecurity – not because they're innately safer but because hackers never really went to the trouble of coding malware for them. Due to its popularity with users around the globe, Windows has always been the favorite operating system of cybercriminals when attempting to infect machines. A new strain of ransomware is turning this worldview on its head, however.
KeRanger is a piece of malware designed specifically to encrypt the files of Mac computers, according to Reuters. This is the first time such an infection has befallen the Apple product, and shows that hackers are adapting to the current cybersecurity environment.
"The whole debacle began with a program called Transmission."
How did it start?
The whole debacle began with a program called Transmission putting out a new update. Transmission is used by BitTorrent to move data back and forth, making it invaluable to many users. As such, people were quick to update to the newest version of the program. Sadly, this was their undoing, as Transmission 2.90 was infected with the KeRanger malware. Anyone who downloaded the update was immediately compromised. However, the ransomware didn't go into effect right away.
KeRanger waits for three days before encrypting the data on the user's computer. This most likely is meant to throw users off the hacker's trail, making it difficult to discover where the infection came from to begin with. Thankfully, this particular piece of malware was discovered within the three-day window. Transmission's developers quickly made a new version that purportedly removes the ransomware from users' computers. Anyone who might have the infected program on their computer has been advised to update to Transmission version 2.92.
If the user misses the update window, the malware will instantly encrypt all information stored on their computer on the third day. Once this happens, there is very little they can do in terms of restoring access to their files. The only choice left is a payment of one bitcoin, or the equivalent of about $400.
The malicious nature of this act aside, it is interesting to see hackers targeting new systems. Ryan Olson from Palo Alto Networks echoed this sentiment in an interview with Ars Technica, while also voicing concern for the future.
"It is a little bit surprising because ransomware has been so incredibly popular for Windows and mobile platforms," Olson said. "It's now of the most popular criminal business models. The fact that it hasn't made it to Mac shows that it's had a great amount of success on the Windows side. But the fact that [the malware] was distributed through a legit application demonstrates that we will see this again."
Ransomware is becoming a big problem
Although this is the first time a major ransomware attack has worked its way onto Macs, ransomware certainly isn't a new form of extortion. The malware has been running rampant the past few years, racking up a major chunk of change for online criminals. The fear of false messages from institutions like the FBI, coupled with the average user's lack of knowledge about these kinds of affairs, clearly makes for a lucrative industry. The McAfee Labs Threats Report from November 2015 found that a single piece of ransomware called CryptoWall Version 3 was responsible for the theft of more than $325 million.
Total figures for these kinds of crimes are incredibly hard to put together, both because of the unreported nature of many of these attacks and also because of how quickly this trend is growing. The McAfee report also stated that the security firm observed roughly 5 million instances of ransomware attacks just in the third quarter of 2015 alone. That's more than twice the number of observations for the same time in 2014, showing that hackers are increasingly relying on this kind of attack to extort money from their victims.
Cybersecurity professionals are needed
The problem with cyberattacks is the amount of defense required to mitigate the risks of a breach. Cybersecurity professionals need to push back every single attack thrown at them, while hackers have the luxury of sitting back and finding that one vulnerability no one would have thought to plug. The good guys have to succeed 100 percent of the time and the villains only have to succeed once, and as such those working in cybersecurity need an immense amount of computer based training.
That said, working in cybersecurity is one of the most gratifying careers out there. Being employed in this field means constantly working to create a better online world, perhaps one of the noblest goals of the Internet age. If you've ever thought of taking hackers on toe-to-toe, check out the variety of cybersecurity computer training courses offered by New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. New Horizons can help you create a safer space for Internet users the world over.