How to step over the malware in Apple's App Store

Apple's App Store, a hub of global curiosities, thousands of everyday downloads and several million searches, has so far prevailed every time hackers and tech fanatics attempted to ruin its presence. However, a particularly vicious software attack in the Chinese App Store yesterday has endangered iOS users again.

As per security firm Palo Alto, around 39 iOS apps have been infected by the latest cyber-attack. Some of these are the extremely popular WeChat, Didi Chuxing cab-hiring app, the official Railway 12306 app, Tonghuashun stock trading app and China Unicom Mobile Office app.

While the breach has been reported in Chinese apps only, it is possible for it to spill out to other regional App Stores. If one of your iOS apps has been breached, here's how to contain it.

Stay away from downloads

Until Apple comes up with a fix for the present danger, it's best for you to suspend further downloads from the App Store since you never know which app may turn out to be infected.

At the same time, update your apps as soon as new patches are made available by app publishers. These should fix existing vulnerabilities.

Look out for alerts

Infected apps are often used by hackers to gather your personal data, especially passwords and credit card information. To avoid this, do not accept any alerts popping out of these apps asking for your passwords or allowing them access to the Wallet. At the same time, restrict access of your apps to contacts, location or your photo library until the clouds clear. 

We were warned!

Earlier in June, a team of six university researchers exposed several weaknesses in Apple's cross-app resource sharing design and communication mechanisms in both iOS and OS X platforms, which any hacker could take advantage of and bypass security checks in the App Store to steal passwords from installed apps.

The security flaw could expose sensitive information present inside the iOS and OS X ecosystems like iCloud tokens and passwords, mail app passwords and passwords stored by Google Chrome.

The team constructed malicious apps which were then fed to Apple's App Store and subsequently cleared the automated verification process to get published in App stores of iOS and Mac. These apps were weaponised enough to break through the keychain service that stored various credentials of Apple's in-house apps. Additional design flaws in Apple's cross-app resource sharing allowed these apps to even steal critical data from third party apps like Facebook, WeChat and Evernote.

While stating that their research is a forewarning to Apple against much more powerful attacks in the future, the researchers expressed hope that the revelations will ensure that OS makers will get to understand the fundamental causes of such flaws to develop better app protection in future operating systems.

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