Global technology company Apple Inc. is unaware of any users with devices operating on iOS being affected by Masque Attack, according to a statement released earlier this week. The company declared that no Apple customers had reported any such attacks and that the default security settings built in to the iOS operating system were enough to block any attacks.
The rise of Masque Attack received increasing media attention this week after Cybersecurity firm FireEye released information on its blog about the potential for mobile apps installed from unknown third parties to replace other apps already installed on an iOS device. The newly installed apps could then replace original apps that require a user’s sensitive or personal information, such as email accounts or mobile banking. The fake apps, according to FireEye, could display an attractive name on a web pop-up in order to lure users into purchasing or downloading it.
The threat has gained so much attention that the U.S. Government released a warning today through the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, as well as the U.S. Computer Readiness Emergency Team. By replacing original apps, Masque Attack could potentially enable hackers to steal personal or sensitive information or even monitor iOS devices from long-range, according to the government warning. All iOS 7 and 8 operating systems are vulnerable to the attack, which accounts for an overwhelming majority of users.
In true Apple fashion, the company has stood its ground in response to the Masque Attack threat and has made it clear that it has full trust in its ability to provide security for its iOS devices. Almost all devices are safe, according to the statement released on Thursday, as long as the user does not disable the security settings on their device. The iOS safeguards which are built into the operating program and provide users with an early warning system against potentially malicious software should also enable the user to avoid downloading dangerous apps – provided users do not ignore the warnings.
Apple’s advice reiterates the suggestions that FireEye has already posted on its blog. Anybody using a device operating on iOS is advised not to trust apps from a third-party and to download apps only from the Apple Store or a trusted company. Pop-ups offering apps with attractive or flashy titles should also be mistrusted and users should select “Don’t Install” on any pop-ups from third-party web pages. The third and final suggestion is for users to select “Don’t Trust” if a security alert shows “Untrusted App Developer” when installing new apps, and to immediately uninstall the app in question.
While users remain safe from Masque Attack as long as they follow this advice, FireEye has disclosed information that the first limited form of attack has been discovered in China. Dubbed “WireLurker,” the attack can jump to other Apple devices when connected via USB. According to the cybersecurity firm, WireLurker is a basic form of Masque Attack that has already begun affecting iPhone and iPad owners as it circulates through China.
By Mathew Channer