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Malvertising campaign targets Apple users with malicious code hidden in images



Apple users continue to be some of the favorite targets of malvertising campaigns, according to a report published this week by cyber-security firm Confiant.

The report describes a new malvertising group called VeryMal that’s been going after Apple users, with the latest campaigns employing steganography techniques to hide malicious code inside ad images to avoid detection.

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The Confiant report comes after the company discovered a different malvertising group last year, named ScamClub, which also exclusively targeted Apple users.

But while ScamClub was a much bigger operation, hijacking as many as 300 million web sessions for US-based iOS users, the VeryMal group is a much smaller in size, being blamed for only five million hijacks.

However, the difference, according to researchers, is that this newer group is way sneakier, employing steganography to hide the code responsible for redirecting users from legitimate sites to malicious ones.

According to Confiant’s recent report, this is how the most recent VeryMal malvertising effort unfolded:

  1. Ad slot on a legitimate website loads an image
  2. The image contains code hidden inside some of its pixel data values
  3. The ad slot also loads additional JavaScript code
  4. The JS code checks to see if Apple fonts are supported.
  5. If it’s an Apple device, this JavaScript code reads the image file to extract the hidden code from inside it.
  6. The external JavaScript code executes the code extracted from the image.
  7. This extracted code is a JavaScript command that forces the browser to navigate to a new URL.
  8. The user is bounced around through different subsequent URLs until he lands on a page showing popups urging him to install software updates –usually for Adobe Flash Player.

Image: Confiant

Confiant says it’s been tracking this group and its campaigns –which usually run in short bursts for a few days– since August last year. Collectively, the VeryMal group appears to have hijacked over 5 million web sessions from legitimate sites, however, it is unknown how many of the users installed the malware-laced apps.

According to Malwarebytes, the tainted software updates contained a version of Shlayer, a Mac malware strain that is used as an intermediary before its operators installed various adware strains on infected devices.

More details about the Shlayer malware are available in the Confiant report, but also in an Intego report from February 2018.

Confiant says that the VeryMal group didn’t always use steganography to hide its malvertising operation, this being a recent addition to the campaigns set in motion this month.

While the January campaign targeted Mac users, Confiant said that in the past VeryMal operators also went after iOS users in previous campaigns.

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Similarly to the ScamClub group, VeryMal also targeted US users exclusively in some of its campaigns.

According to a GeoEdge report published last November, malicious code hidden inside ad images caused financial losses to ad networks estimated at around $1.13 billion in 2018 alone.

Steganography is becoming a very common technique that malware groups use these days to hide malicious code inside images. A report published by EdgeSpot yesterday also detailed how another group hid the exploit code for an Adobe Reader vulnerability inside images, to avoid security scanners for detecting it.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Unified Endpoint Management



Endpoint management is one of the most significant challenges in the enterprise today. An increasingly large percentage of our workforce is distributed and demands flexibility to work wherever they want, whenever they want. We must respond by giving them access to the services they require to do their jobs effectively. The alternative is that we, as a business, will suffer, lose good people, and become less competitive. However, we must achieve this essential access while maintaining security and control of our business’s data assets.

An appropriate endpoint management strategy is key to addressing these issues. Our approach should be holistic and unified, bringing together control of devices, management of applications, security of data, and access controls.

Unified endpoint management (UEM) is the approach to meeting this challenge. It has evolved from traditionally disparate solutions for endpoint management, application delivery, and security into a single platform. This single platform delivers a consistent end-user experience across all devices, applications, and locations while maintaining security and control of data assets. The leading solutions allow us to enroll devices easily into our control, provide support, and ensure constituency and compliance while managing access to our applications and data.

This GigaOM Key Criteria Report describes UEM solutions and identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting such a solution. The corresponding GigaOm Radar Report identifies vendors and products that excel in this sector. Together, these reports give decision-makers an overview of the market to help them evaluate existing platforms and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Data Storage for Ever Changing Business Needs



Join GigaOm analyst Enrico Signoretti and CTERA CTO Aron Brand in this one-hour live webinar as they explore file storage trends and dynamics through the lens of IT infrastructure modernization projects.

The file and cloud experts will discuss the limitations of traditional NAS architectures in today’s corporate environments and how organizations are implementing distributed cloud file storage to solve remote collaboration, ransomware protection, and unstructured data growth challenges.

Signoretti and Brand will also examine the recently published GigaOm Radar for Distributed Cloud File Storage, in which CTERA was named the leader. They will review the report’s key criteria and evaluation metrics for choosing a distributed cloud file storage platform, helping IT leaders to understand which vendors are most aligned to their needs today as well as 12-18 months down the road.

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High Performance Application Security Testing – Cloud WAF Security Platforms



This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research features analyst Jake Dolezal and will focus on comparing Web Application Firewall (WAF) security platforms in an enterprise with high performance needs.

This webinar will discuss web application security mechanisms deployed in the cloud. The cloud enables enterprises to differentiate and innovate with microservices at a rapid pace. However, the cloud is just as vulnerable, if not more so, to attacks and breaches as on-premises APIs and apps are. Our focus is specifically on approaches to securing apps, APIs, and microservices that are tuned for high performance and availability. We define “high performance” as companies that experience workloads of more than 1,000 transactions per second (tps) and require a maximum latency below 30 milliseconds across the landscape.

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Register now to join GigaOm and NGINX for this free expert webinar.

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