Apple cleans up elusive malware in the iOS App Store

— 8:03 AM on September 21, 2015

Apple's iOS app store is a notorious walled garden, but it seems to have sprung a leak. Reuters reports that Macs belonging to certain developers contracted some malware dubbed Xcode Ghost that, in turn, infected iOS binaries compiled on those machines. Some of the infected apps made it onto the App Store.

It seems the cause of the outbreak was an infected version of Xcode downloaded from a server in China, rather than directly from Apple. Palo Alto Networks Director of Threat Intelligence Ryan Olson told Reuters that the infected apps had "limited functionality", and his company had detected no customer data theft. 

At least one company says the issue is behind it. WeChat developer Tencent says older versions were affected, but the company claims version 6.2.6 released on September 12 is clean. Chinese security firm Qihoo360 Technology told Reuters that it found 344 apps infected by Xcode Ghost on the App Store. 

The iPhone maker spent the weekend cleaning up affected apps from the app store. "We've removed the apps from the App Store that we know have been created with this counterfeit software," Apple told Reuters in an email. "We are working with the developers to make sure they’re using the proper version of Xcode to rebuild their apps." The company didn't say what iOS users could do to protect themselves, but we'd recommend checking the App Store for updated versions of installed applications.

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