Ad-Focused Malware Targets Apple Users in China and Taiwan
Updated Oct 5, 2015 10:23 am HKT
Article by Newley Purnell, with contributions by Josh Chin
Analysis by Stephanie Stelter
Two separate types of malware targeted Apple users in China and Taiwan: YiSpecter and XcodeGhost. YiSpecter was the more recent attack, is hidden within an app that allows users to view free pornographic videos. This is of note because pornography is illegal in China. The code embedded within the app adjusts settings on the device to allow advertisements to appear during the use of almost any other app on the device. Essentially, the malware allows Apple users in China intending to participate in illegal activity to be spammed with excessive amounts of advertising.
My interest in this article stems from a question of the primary characteristic that led to the population to be targeted for the attack: being Apple users or intending to watch porn. The possibility of the first characteristic, being Apple users, is the consideration that has possible international ramifications. Apple relies on the reputation of its products for being more resistant to cyber attacks than similar products produced by other companies. If hackers in China begin to hone methods to infiltrate Apple devices with increasing regularity, it may have a significant impact on Apple's reputation. Apply may be well enough established in the international market to sustain its market share, even if its reputation suffered. However, there have been studies of Apple's operating system market share compared to that of other mobile device operating systems that would lead one to believe that Apple is not as well established in all parts of the world as it is in the U.S.