If you?re still having second thoughts about updating your iPhone or iPad to the latest iOS 8 version, now is probably the best time to do it. New reports indicate that a massive spyware program specifically aimed towards Apple-made mobile devices is currently in operation.
What is Operation Pawn Storm?
Researchers from security firm Trend Micro have learned about this the cyber espionage effort and announced its existence on Wednesday. This new type of spyware is part of a campaign that people in the tech industry dub as ?Operation Pawn Storm.?
Pawn Storm has been found to enact its hacking work via two apps: XAgent and Madcap. The latter only works on jailbroken devices and borrows its name from an actual iOS game. The former works even on non-jailbroken devices and utilizes Apple?s ad hoc provisioning system, a feature used by the company to distribute applications to iOS developers.
Although Trend Micro did not associate this new brand of malware to any entity, other security researchers think that it is sophisticated enough to be a state-sponsored espionage program. Pawn Storm is also first spotted at about the same time when Russia annexed Ukraine?s Crimea region.
What it can do to your iOS device
When installed on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, these two apps can stealthily do the following and send them to a remote command-and-control server.
- Collect text messages
- Get contact lists
- Get pictures
- Collect geo-location data
- Start voice recording
- Get a list of installed apps
- Get a list of processes
- Get the Wi-Fi status
Why iOS 7 devices are in danger
If your devices are running iOS 7, you may never know that these apps are present because their icons are hidden. They also work in the background even if you don?t launch them. In the case of XAgent, Trend Micro mentioned that when they tried to terminate it by killing the process, it restarts almost immediately.
Fortunately for iOS 8 users, those aren?t the case. Devices running the latest iOS version can display these Pawn Storm apps? icons, thereby indicating their presence. iOS 8-powered handsets will also display multiple notifications whenever a new application is about to be installed. Moreover, XAgent won?t be able to work unless you launch it first.
Photo Credit: ?Apple