Researchers spot Mac Trojan in the wild

Exploits recently revealed bug in Mac OS X's Remote Management

Security researchers reported recently that they have spotted a Mac Trojan horse in the wild that could compromise machines running Apple's Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5.

Last Thursday, SecureMac, a Mac-specific vendor of antivirus tools, posted an alert saying that its researchers had found a Trojan horse, dubbed "AppleScript.THT," being distributed from a hacker-operated site where discussions of spreading the malware via iChat, Apple's instant messaging and video chat software, were also taking place.

The company classified the threat posed by the Trojan as "critical."

The malware exploits a recently publicized vulnerability in the Apple Remote Desktop Agent (ARDAgent), part of Tiger's and Leopard's Remote Management component. Composed as a compiled AppleScript, or in another variant, script bundled into an application, the Trojan leverages the ARDAgent bug to gain full control of the victimized Mac.

"[It] allows a malicious user complete remote access to the system, can transmit system and user passwords, and can avoid detection by opening ports in the firewall and turning off system logging," claimed SecureMac. "Additionally, the Trojan can log keystrokes, take pictures with the built-in Apple iSight camera, take screenshots, and turn on file sharing."

SecureMac's warning came one day after an anonymous reader disclosed a few details of the ARDAgent vulnerability on Slashdot, and on the same day that rival security vendor Intego provided more information about the bug.

Malicious AppleScript, said Intego, can call ARDAgent, which then gives that script full "root" access to the system. "When an application enables a root privilege escalation of this type, any malicious code that is run may have devastating effects. These may range from deleting all the files on the Mac to more pernicious attacks such as changing system settings and even setting up periodic tasks to perform them repeatedly," Intego's warning read.

Like any Trojan horse, AppleScript.THT does not spread on its own but relies on user actions, such as downloading and launching, to infect a machine. Trojans can also be silently introduced on a computer if it's injected after a successful attack using another vulnerability, such as a browser bug.

Some researchers downplayed the threat. Thomas Ptacek of Matasano Security, a US-based security consultancy, said the ARDAgent vulnerability wasn't much of a concern.

"Who cares if someone busts root on your Mac?" Ptacek said in a Thursday entry on the Matasano blog. "It's a single-user system. I'll let you in on a Matasano state secret: if you break [my user] account, I'm in trouble. If you're malware and just trying to spread, or redirect my browser to phishing pages, you're wasting your time with this 'root' silliness."

Ptacek and others have noted that users can protect themselves by removing ARDAgent from its normal location, which is System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement, and archiving the application.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >




Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?