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Research: Apple's Malware Checks Are Lacking

by on August 16, 2013
in Phones and Mobile, News, Mobile Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Computer Safety & Support, Blog :: 2 comments

Apple iPhone 5In terms of mobile security, Apple’s iOS is considered fairly safe – or, at least, somewhat safer than Android. The only apps available to run on iPhone and iPad devices are those that have passed an extensive review process. Theoretically, iPhones don’t wind up with malware installed because Apple works hard to catch malicious apps before they’re downloadable by the public.

In practice, however, Apple's efforts appear to come up short. A team of researchers at Georgia Tech exposed a massive hole in the app vetting process when it successfully uploaded software with malicious code to the Apple App Store as part of an experiment.

Specifically, the Georgia Tech mobile security team created an app advertised as a way to get news stories about the school. Buried in the app was a sort of viral timebomb – code that turns malicious only after being connected to the Internet for some time. This suggests that Apple’s screening process only reviews each app for seconds before declaring them malware-free, allowing similar remote-assembling malware to potentially sneak through. Explained Stony Brook University Assistant Professor Long Lu, who worked on the study: “The message we want to deliver is that right now the Apple review process is mostly doing a static analysis of the app, which we say is not sufficient because dynamically generated logic cannot be very easily seen.”

While the odds of being targeted by a similar virus are small – Apple is already working to fix this particular security hole – this news only highlights the importance of running anti-virus software on your mobile devices, imperfect though such programs may be. Check out our need-to-know guide on mobile security for ideas on how to keep your valuable device safe.

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Discussion loading

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Mac and iOS are virtually Virus free

From Apple Fan on August 17, 2013 :: 11:21 pm

I’ve been an iOS and Mac user for several years without a virus or any known malware.

I used Windows 8 for a few hours for someone else and picked up a virus that I spent several hours trying to remove.

Windows 8 really made me appreciate my Mac. I expect Android will be similar to Windows when it comes to malware and viruses.

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Practically impossible to guarantee 3rd party software is not malicious

From Exolon on October 29, 2013 :: 8:53 am

This example just demonstrates that it’s almost impossible to give a guarantee that 3rd party software is safe.
There’s no automatic way to detect with 100% accuracy whether a program is malicious or not.
In fact here’s a task which sounds simpler: detect whether a program will finish or run forever.

Even this simple-sounding task was proven to be (generally) impossible by Turing, way back in 1936.

If that is impossible, then it’s surely also impossible to guarantee that a program submitted by someone else is free of malicious behaviour. In that sense, the iOS marketplace is theoretically no safer than the almost-free-for-all that is Android, and the completely chaotic and brilliant software landscape that we’ve always had on PCs and before.

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