What You Need to Know About iOS Malware XcodeGhost

Palo Alto Networks has published details about new Chinese malware called XcodeGhost. MacRumors has created a FAQ so you can learn more about the malware and how to keep your iOS devices protected.

What is XcodeGhost?
XcodeGhost is a new iOS malware arising from a malicious version of Xcode, Apple’s official tool for developing iOS and OS X apps.

How is XcodeGhost distributed?
A malicious version of Xcode was uploaded to Chinese cloud file sharing service Baidu and downloaded by some iOS developers in China.

Chinese developers then unknowingly compile iOS apps using the modified Xcode IDE and distribute those infected apps through the App Store. Those apps then managed to pass through Apple’s code review process, enabling iOS users to install or update the infected apps on their devices.

Which devices are affected?
iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models running an iOS version compatible with any of the infected apps. The malware affects both stock and jailbroken devices.

Which apps are affected?
Palo Alto Networks has shared a full list of 39 infected iOS apps, including WeChat, NetEase Cloud Music, WinZip, Didi Chuxing, Railway 12306, China Unicom Mobile Office and Tonghuashun.

How many users are affected?
XcodeGhost potentially affects more than 500 million iOS users, primarily because messaging app WeChat is very popular in China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Which unofficial versions of Xcode are affected?
All unofficial versions between Xcode 6.1 and Xcode 6.4.

How does XcodeGhost put my iOS devices at risk?
iOS apps infected with XcodeGhost malware can and do collect information about devices and then encrypt and upload that data to command and control (C2) servers run by attackers through the HTTP protocol. The system and app information that can be collected includes:

Current time
Current infected app’s name
The app’s bundle identifier
Current device’s name and type
Current system’s language and country
Current device’s UUID
Network type

Palo Alto Networks also discovered that infected iOS apps can receive commands from the attacker through the C2 server to perform the following actions:

Prompt a fake alert dialog to phish user credentials;
Hijack opening specific URLs based on their scheme, which could allow for exploitation of vulnerabilities in the iOS system or other iOS apps;
Read and write data in the user’s clipboard, which could be used to read the user’s password if that password is copied from a password management tool.

Can XcodeGhost affect users outside of China?
Yes. Some of the iOS apps infected with XcodeGhost malware are available on the App Store in countries outside of China. CamCard, for example, is a popular business card reader and scanner app available in the United States and several other countries, while WeChat is a popular messaging app in the Asia-Pacific region.

Why would some Chinese developers download Xcode from Baidu?
Xcode is a large file that can take a long time to download from Apple’s servers in China, leading some developers to download Xcode from unofficial sources.

How are Apple and Chinese developers dealing with XcodeGhost?
Palo Alto Networks claims that it is cooperating with Apple on the issue, while multiple developers have updated their apps to remove the malware.

How do I protect myself against XcodeGhost?
iOS users should immediately uninstall any infected iOS app listed here on their devices, or update to a newer version that has removed the malware. Resetting your iCloud password, and any other passwords inputted on your iOS device, is also strongly recommended as a precautionary measure.

Developers should install official versions of Xcode 7 or Xcode 7.1 beta from Apple’s website for free and avoid downloading the software from unofficial sources.



Apple Patents Waterproofing Method ‘For Shielding Electronic Components from Moisture’ [iOS Blog]

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent created by Apple, detailing a method for the extensive waterproofing of various components within a device, possibly an iPhone, thus creating a completely waterproof smartphone without the need of a special case (via Patently Apple).

Originally filed in September of 2013, the patent describes a „hydroponic coating“ to be layered onto integral parts within a device, like its printed circuit board. Apple describes achieving this using a „plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process“ that would adhere the coating substance onto the surface of the printed circuit board in such a way as to not take up much additional room in the already small casing of a smartphone.

In the bigger picture, immersing electronic devices in water generally has predictably negative results. Through testing it has been determined that high voltage power components are more likely to short or malfunction after only brief exposure to liquids or moisture. More specifically, exposed metal areas having high voltage differentials in close proximity can easily experience short circuit events when corrosion or water immersion bridges the gap between such areas.

By providing an insulating layer or barrier around these highly susceptible parts, water resistance can be substantially increased without obscuring functional openings leading into a device housing of a particular electronic device. A thin hydrophobic (i.e., water resistant) conformal coating having a thickness between at least one and ten microns can be applied to a substrate using a plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process. The PACVD process charges the surface of the substrate so that the coating can be bonded to the charged surface.

Though not completely waterproof as Apple’s new patent intends a device to be, Tim Cook recently stated that the company’s upcoming Apple Watch will in fact be a bit more water resistant than previously thought. He stated that he wears his personal Apple Watch everywhere, „even in the shower.“ If so, the Watch will be the company’s first device with such a water resistant claim.

While the patent doesn’t specifically state what device the waterproof process could be attributed to, it’s easy to see the company reasoning the method for use on iPhone and iPad. Although, like with all other patents, the practicality of a completely waterproof iPhone launching anytime soon is highly unlikely, it’s always an interesting glimpse behind the scenes regarding what the company may be considering for its future.




An In-Depth Look at Apple Watch Band Options and Potential Pricing

Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber today published a piece going in-depth on what he believes Apple’s upcoming Apple Watch wearable will sell for, how the various accessory bands will be sold at retail, and just how much the all-gold Apple Watch Edition could possibly cost.

Taking a step back from the tech industry, Gruber looked at the upper tier of the fashion accessory market and decided to revisit his early fall guess that the lowest price the Apple Watch Edition could sell for would be $5,000. He began asking „friends who might know“ whether they thought that estimate was too high.

The answer has always been “No”. But the way I’ve been told “No” has given me the uneasy feeling that I’ve been asking the wrong question. I should have been asking if $5,000 is too low.

I now think Edition models will start around $10,000 — and, if my hunch is right about bands and bracelets, the upper range could go to $20,000. I was off by a factor of two, and my friend Vincent, I think, nailed it back on the day Apple Watch was introduced.

Due to Apple’s decision to remain silent on many details of Apple Watch pricing structure so far, Gruber, like many others, assumed the interchangable bands shown off at last September’s reveal event would be able to be purchased separately. Watch wearers could, in essence, dress up a Sport Edition with a Milanese Loop, or exchange a nice leather band of a higher-tier model with a Sport band. Gruber now notes, however, that this does not appear to be the case, with band options for each watch version being limited.

He points to a list of bands available for the mid-tier stainless steel Apple Watch model. As presented on Apple’s site, the list starts with the Sport band and ends with the higher-quality Space Black Stainless Steel with Link Bracelets. Besides differences between each band’s 38mm and 42mm sizes, Gruber argues this ordering is an indication of price from least to most expensive.

So I’m thinking the regular Apple Watch will come in at least five pricing tiers:

1. Entry: Sport Band, black or white.
2. Regular leather: Classic Buckle, you’ll get it in black and you’ll like it.
3. Milanese Loop.
4. Deluxe leather: Modern Buckle for 38mm models, Leather Loop for 42mm models. Each with a choice of three colors.
5. Link Bracelet.

You’ll pay a premium for color straps and advanced clasp mechanisms, and you’ll pay even more for the Link Bracelet.

He isn’t sure the same ordering rules will apply to the expensive Apple Watch Edition, however, with a small list of six variations, he thinks their placement on the website „almost certainly does not correspond to price.“

Gruber’s full piece is well worth a read, as it offers a thorough analysis of the various band options and how they will likely pair up with the various watch collections. With three different watch collections, two casing sizes, and a number of different bands that will likely vary substantially in price, the Apple Watch appears set to be available at a wide range of price points starting at the base price of $349 and quickly ramping up from there.

News and rumors about the Apple Watch and all of its editions have been building since Tim Cook announced the device’s launch window sometime in April. Most recently it was reported that Apple is allowing select third-party developers to visit the company’s Cupertino headquarters to help them put the finishing touches on their various Apple Watch apps before the big launch. It remains unclear, however, just how long Apple will wait to announce full details on pricing and availability.

HTC Calls Out Apple and Samsung in New Rap Video ‘Hold the Crown’ [iOS Blog]

HTC last week published a video to its YouTube channel, HTCAmerica, which satirizes HTC’s biggest competitors – namely Apple and Samsung – with a song sung by rapper Greg Carr, known as „Doc G.“

The video, fully titled „Doc G’s HTC Anthem „Hold the Crown“ w/ David Bruce,“ centers around the rapper interacting with various people dressed up as smartphones from the various companies. Carr, known mainly for his time in the group P.M. Dawn, is joined for a majority of the video by HTC’s own David Bruce.

The song’s lyrics (via Engadget) include jokes about everything from Apple’s inferior performance and sound („Your chip is slower, But you’ll never touch our BoomSound“) to Samsung’s „overrated“ Galaxy („More than a few clowns stole what we originated, We own the universe, your Galaxy is overrated“). It also includes general riffs on HTC’s most popular features like Extreme Power Saving Mode and references to HTC CEO Peter Chou.

The company also released an interview on the same YouTube channel in which Bruce questions Carr about various topics ranging from his time with HTC products to his thoughts on the competition. During it, the rapper states he’s been „a huge HTC supporter for years,“ and believes HTC has „the best phones created.“




Researchers find old Warhol image files in unknown format

A group of people have discovered some never-before-seen Andy Warhol images that the artist created back in 1985. They were stored on old floppy disks and were created on a Commodore Amiga 1000. Read more…



Photo of Alleged Front Panel from Larger-Screen iPhone 6 Surfaces

An alleged photo of what appears to be a front panel from Apple’s larger-screen iPhone 6 has surfaced on Chinese microblogging site Weibo (via iPhone.fr, Google Translation).

The image appears to show an individual in a factory-type setting holding up an iPhone 5s next to a much larger front panel that contains similar characteristics, including cutouts for a front-facing camera, ambient light sensor, ear speaker, and home button. However, the front panel also features a notably thinner bezel, which is consistent with previous rumors about the iPhone 6’s slimmer design.

While the validity of the image cannot be confirmed, the leak is the latest among a number of others recently. This past weekend, several photos reportedly showed the details on manufacturing molds for the iPhone 6, which was followed by a photo yesterday that hinted at a 4.7-inch display.

Last month, Japanese magazine MacFan published alleged design drawings of what appeared to be 4.7-inch and 5.6-inch iPhone 6 models, with a photo showing cases for the larger iPhone surfacing shortly afterward.

Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 6 later this year, which may ship in two different sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. Recent reports have indicated that the smaller 4.7 inch version will ship first in the fall, while the larger version may ship later this year or in early 2015 due to manufacturing challenges.

Along with a larger screen, both models of the next-generation iPhone are rumored to include a new A8 processor, Touch ID fingerprint sensor and an upgraded camera featuring optical image stabilization. A report yesterday from Jefferies analyst Peter Misek also stated that Apple is negotiating with wireless carriers to raise the price of the iPhone 6 by $100.




Excerpt From New Book Offers Look at Tim Cook’s Management Style

The Wall Street Journal today published a new excerpt from former WSJ reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane’s new book Haunted Empire, Apple After Steve Jobs, offering a new look into the management style of Tim Cook.

Kane notes that when Cook started at Apple in 1998, he set high expectations for everyone working for him, asking them to act like Apple was a $20 billion company when they were a $6 billion company and to procure the best yields, delivery and prices on components.

To some, Cook was a machine; to others, he was riveting. He could strike terror in the hearts of his subordinates, but he could also motivate them to toil from dawn to midnight for just a word of praise.

Cook ran his operations meetings in an orderly and disciplined fashion, going through every item and finding any possible error in meetings that could last up to six hours long. These meetings, according to Kane, could sometimes be terrifying for employees.

Meetings with Cook could be terrifying. He exuded a Zenlike calm and didn’t waste words. „Talk about your numbers. Put your spreadsheet up,“ he’d say as he nursed a Mountain Dew. (Some staffers wondered why he wasn’t bouncing off the walls from the caffeine.) When Cook turned the spotlight on someone, he hammered them with questions until he was satisfied. „Why is that?“ „What do you mean?“ „I don’t understand. Why are you not making it clear?“ He was known to ask the same exact question 10 times in a row.

Unlike Jobs, Cook apparently used deafening silence when he wasn’t happy with something. For instance, the excerpt explains an incident where someone was unable to answer one of Cook’s questions so Cook didn’t say a word and let the silence fester, causing everyone in the room to stare at the table. The atmosphere of the room would grow to intense levels as Cook kept his eyes on the person who wasn’t able to answer until Cook pulled out an energy bar from his pocket to eat as he waited for an answer.

However, once Cook became CEO he made moves to make Apple feel more open internally than it had under Jobs. He opted to communicate with employees more often via emails and town-hall meetings. And, unlike Jobs, who opted to have lunch with Jony Ive, Cook would have lunch at the cafeteria and introduce himself to employees he didn’t know and ask to eat with them.

Haunted Empire, Apple After Steve Jobs will be published on March 18.




Initial Phase of Apple’s Expanded Austin Operations Center Ready for Occupancy [Mac Blog]

The first two buildings in Apple’s new Austin, Texas campus are ready for occupancy, with the company having been issued temporary occupancy permits for two office buildings that span 290,000 square feet, according to a report in the Austin Business Journal. Photos published last year showed the buildings under construction along with a landscaped pond, fences and sidewalks, while new photos accompanying today’s report show the initial phase of the campus appearing essentially complete.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based technology company has been issued temporary certificates of occupancy for two buildings totaling 290,000 square feet. Another four buildings are in early stages of permitting review, totaling 513,000 square feet. Two parking garages are in the city’s planning review process and two other buildings are planned, according to city officials.

Apple’s two new buildings on Austin campus (Nick Simonite/Austin Business Journal)
The plans for the expanded campus were announced in March 2012 and include two major phases of development with an expected completion date of 2021. Apple agreed to invest $56.5 million to build the new facility in the first phase of the project, while the second phase includes a $226 million expansion. Apple is expected to finish the entire first phase of construction before December 31, 2015.

Apple committed to spend approximately $304 million on the project and will hire 3,600 employees for the 38-acre operations center when completed. The city of Austin and Texas’s Enterprise Fund have agreed to contribute $30 million in incentives to the project. Apple, thus far, has invested $27.1 million in the design and construction of these first two buildings, which are adjacent to Apple’s original operations campus in the city.




Apple to Require New App Store Submissions to be ‘Optimized for iOS 7’ on February 1 [iOS Blog]

Apple has published a new announcement for developers on its dev center website notifying them that all new App Store submissions must be built with the latest version of Xcode 5 and optimized for iOS 7.

Starting February 1, new apps and app updates submitted to the App Store must be built with the latest version of Xcode 5 and must be optimized for iOS 7. Learn more about preparing your apps by reviewing the iOS Human Interface Guidelines.

The new rule goes into effect on February 1, 2014 and means that any apps built on older versions of Xcode or non-iOS 7 optimized apps will be rejected from the App Store.

In addition, this also applies to app updates, providing some inspiration for developers to update their developer tools and optimize their apps for iOS 7 as the updates will be rejected otherwise. Optimizing an app for iOS 7 does not necessarily mean it needs to look different, but that the underlying construction of the app must be optimized for the new OS.

Earlier this month, Apple’s App Store usage numbers indicated that iOS 7 had been installed on 74 percent of devices connected to the App Store. The new rule indicates Apple is eager to get developers to take advantage of iOS 7’s high adoption rate and make their apps compatible with it to ensure higher user satisfaction.




Apple Publishes Report Outlining Government Information Requests

Apple today published a Report on Government Information Requests [PDF], outlining statistics on government and law enforcement requests it has received seeking information about individual users or devices from January to the end of June.

We believe that our customers have a right to understand how their personal information is handled, and we consider it our responsibility to provide them with the best privacy protections available. Apple has prepared this report on the requests we receive from governments seeking information about individual users or devices in the interest of transparency for our customers around the world.

In the report, Apple specifies that it has „no interest in collecting customer data“ and details the number of law enforcement requests that it has received, the number of accounts specified within the requests, the number of accounts that Apple supplied data for, and the number of requests Apple objected to.

According to the data, Apple received 3,542 device information requests, for 8,605 devices. Apple provided data for 88 percent or 3,110 of those requests. The company also received between 1,000 and 2,000 requests for account information for 2,000 to 3,000 accounts, but is unable to disclose the information that it provided. Apple also provided information for law enforcement agencies in a number of other countries.

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Apple reports that it has published all of the information that it is legally allowed to share, which does not include the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by orders, or the content disclosed. Apple notes that it is continuing to seek greater transparency in government, to attempt to provide better privacy disclosures to customers.

Apple’s disclosures come following news of a top secret intelligence data gathering program called ‘PRISM’, which was revealed in June. A number of tech companies, including Apple, were accused of providing the government with direct access to user data.

In response, Apple published a statement of „Commitment to Customer Privacy“ denying its participation in PRISM and teamed up with a number of tech companies to form an alliance requesting greater NSA surveillance transparency, allowing it to provide customers with regular reports on security related requests.

Apple and other companies also met with President Obama in August to discuss privacy issues and government surveillance. Most recently, Apple and 30 other technology corporations signed a letter urging the U.S. Congress to pass the Surveillance Order Reporting Act of 2013 and the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, which would result in increased surveillance disclosures and would give technology companies the right to publish detailed statistics on demands for user data.

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