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September 22, 2015

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Apple cuts apps over malware scare

COMPUTING giant Apple said yesterday it had removed software from its App Store, after reports said hundreds of apps including some of China’s most popular were infected with malware.

More than 300 apps, including the hugely popular instant messaging service WeChat, and taxi-hailing program Didi Kuaidi, were infected with code potentially allowing tracking of user data, Chinese media said.

The reports were a blow to the American firm, which has China as its second-largest market.

Apple said it had “removed” the affected apps from its online store.

Citing United States-based cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks, the Wall Street Journal said the attack affected more than three dozen apps on Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices.

Apps infected by the malware — code-named XcodeGhost — could transmit information about a user’s machine, mount phishing attacks to try to steal passwords, and access clipboard information, it said.

It was not clear whether all the infected apps were Chinese.

Other firms said to be affected include Internet portal NetEase and mobile phone operator China Unicom, among others.

Anti-censorship group, which tracks Chinese Internet restrictions, hacking and other online issues, said the attack appeared to originate in compromised versions of Xcode, Apple’s developer software, which were then used by Chinese programers.

“This is the most widespread and significant spread of malware in the history of the Apple app store, anywhere in the world,” it said.

“Apple manually reviews all app submissions and, in comparison to Android stores, has been relatively malware-free,” it said.

Wee Teck Loo, head of consumer electronics at Euromonitor International, said: “It is definitely embarrassing for Apple but the reality is that malware is a persistent problem since the days of PCs.”

Tencent, which makes the WeChat software with about 500 million users in China said: “A security flaw, caused by an external malware, was recently discovered affecting iOS users,” adding that it has since rectified the flaw.

“There has been no theft and leakage of users’ information or money,” the company said in a statement issued at the weekend.

The makers of taxi-hailing app Didi Kuaidi, which claims to have 200 million regular users, said its software had been infected but denied users’ privacy was compromised.

Following a software upgrade “there’s no longer any threat,” it said in an online statement.

Apple said: “To protect our customers, we’ve removed the apps from the App Store that we know have been created with this counterfeit software and we are working with the developers to make sure they’re using the proper version of Xcode to rebuild their apps.”


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