Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) has found out that hackers focused on on-site visitors to websites in Hong Kong had been the usage of a formerly undisclosed, or zero-day, flaw in macOS to undercover agent on people.
Apple patched the trojan horse, tracked as CVE-2021-30869, in a macOS Catalina replace in September, approximately a month after Google TAG researchers discovered it being used.
“A malicious utility can be capable of executing arbitrary code with kernel privileges. Apple is privy to reviews that an take advantage of for this trouble exists withinside the wild,” Apple stated, crediting Google TAG researchers with reporting the flaw.
Now Google has supplied greater information, noting that this become a so-called “watering hollow” attack, in which attackers pick out websites to compromise due to the profile of common site visitors. The assaults centered on Mac and iPhone users.
“The websites leveraged for the assaults contained iframes which served exploits from an attacker-managed server — one for iOS and the opposite for macOS,” stated Erye Hernandez of Google TAG.
The watering hollow served an XNU privilege escalation vulnerability at that factor unpatched in macOS Catalina, which caused the setup of a backdoor.
“We accept as true with this hazard actor to be a well-resourced group, probably state-backed, with getting right of entry to their very own software program engineering group primarily based totally at the nice of the payload code,” he added.
The attackers had been the usage of the formerly disclosed flaw in XNU, tracked as CVE-2020-27932, and associated take advantage of to create an elevation of privilege trojan horse that gave them root get right of entry to on a centered Mac.
Once root get right of entry to become gained, the attackers downloaded a payload that ran silently withinside the heritage on inflamed Macs. The layout of the malware indicates a well-resourced attacker, consistent with Google TAG.
“The payload appears to be made of tremendous software program engineering. It makes use of a publish-subscribe version thru a Data Distribution Service (DDS) framework for speaking with the C2. It additionally has numerous components, a number of which appear like configured as modules,” notes Hernandez.
The backdoor covered the usual-suspect developments of malware constructed for spying on a target, consisting of tool fingerprint, display screen captures, the cap potential to add and download files, in addition, to execute terminal commands. The malware may also report audio and log keystrokes.
Google failed to reveal the websites centered however mentioned that they covered a “media outlet and an outstanding pro-democracy hard work and political group” associated with Hong Kong news.