Eight New macOS Malware Families Emerged in 2021


Eight new macOS malware families emerged in 2021, according to Patrick Wardle, a security researcher who specializes in Apple products.

The new macOS malware spotted in 2021 includes ElectroRAT, SilverSparrow, XcodeSpy, ElectrumStealer, WildPressure, XLoader, ZuRu, and CDDS (aka MacMa).

Wardle has published a blog post describing each of these pieces of malware, including their infection vector, persistence mechanism, features, and goals. He has also shared samples of each malware to allow others to conduct their own analysis.

ElectroRAT, a cross-platform RAT designed to steal cryptocurrency, emerged in January. The malware has been delivered via trojanized applications and its capabilities include keylogging, taking screenshots, downloading/uploading files, and executing commands.

SilverSparrow was discovered in February and it affected roughly 30,000 macOS devices, but it remains a mysterious piece of malware as it’s still unclear exactly how it was distributed and what its end goal was — its second payload was not identified — but the best guess is that it delivered adware.

XcodeSpy emerged in March and it appeared to be aimed at software developers. It was delivered via malicious Xcode projects and it installed a custom variant of the backdoor named EggShell, which allows its operators to spy on users.

ElectrumStealer, also uncovered in March, leveraged a backdoored Electrum wallet to steal cryptocurrencies from infected systems. The threat had been inadvertently notarized by Apple.

The existence of WildPressure for macOS was disclosed in July, after it had been seen targeting industrial organizations in the Middle East. The WildPressure campaign is believed to have started in May 2019, but it initially only involved Windows malware.

XLoader is a cross-platform piece of malware designed to steal passwords. It has been described as the macOS evolution of the Formbook malware.

ZuRu emerged in China in September, when it was observed spreading via sponsored Baidu search results. The malware delivered sponsored ads and trojanized applications.

The last piece of malware identified in 2021 is CDDS (MacMa), which was spotted by Google. A sophisticated threat actor had been exploiting a macOS zero-day vulnerability to deliver CDDS to users in Hong Kong via watering hole websites.

“With the continued growth and popularity of macOS (especially in the enterprise!), 2022 will surely bring a bevy of new macOS malware,” Wardle concluded.

Related: Mac Malware Targeting Apple’s M1 Chip Emerges

Related: Repurposing Mac Malware Not Difficult, Researcher Shows

Related: Hackers Can Bypass macOS Security Features With Synthetic Clicks

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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