Hackers Using Trojanized macOS Apps to Deploy Evasive Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

cryptomining operation targeting macOS

Security researchers discovered a crypto mining operation targeting macOS with a malicious version of Final Cut Pro that remains largely undetected by antivirus engines.

They found that the malicious variant was distributed over torrent and executed the XMRig utility that mines for Monero cryptocurrency.

Trojanized versions of legitimate applications are being used to deploy evasive cryptocurrency mining malware on macOS systems.

Jamf Threat Labs, which made the discovery, said the XMRig coin miner was executed as Final Cut Pro, a video editing software from Apple, which contained an unauthorized revision.

” This malware makes use of the unnoticeable Internet Project( i2p)(.) to download vicious components and send mined currency to the attacker’s wallet,” Jamf experimenters Matt Benyo, Ferdous Saljooki, and Jaron Bradley said in a report shared with Us.

An earlier iteration of the campaign was documented exactly a time ago by Trend Micro, which pointed out the malware’s use of i2p to conceal network traffic and speculated that it may have been delivered as a DMG file for Adobe Photoshop CC 2019.

The Apple device management company said the source of the crypto hacking apps can be traced to Pirate Bay, with the foremost uploads dating all the way back to 2019. 

The result is the discovery of three generations of the malware, observed first in August 2019, April 2021, and October 2021, that charts the evolution of the campaign’s sophistication and covertness.

One example of the evasion technique is a shell script that monitors the list of running processes to check for the presence of Activity Monitor, and if so, terminate the mining processes. 

Researched by Matt Benyo, Ferdous Saljooki and Jaron Bradley

The vicious mining process banks on the user launching the pirated application, upon which the code embedded in the executable connects to an actor- controlled server over i2p to download the XMRig component. 

The malware’s ability to fly under the radar, coupled with the fact that users running cracked software are willingly doing something illegal, has made the distribution vector a largely effective one for numerous years. 

Apple, still, has taken steps to combat similar abuse by subjecting notarized apps to more strict Gatekeeper checks in macOS Ventura, thereby preventing tampered apps from being launched.

 ” On the other hand, macOS Ventura didn’t prevent the miner from executing,” Jamf experimenters noted.” By the time the user receives the error message, that malware has formally been installed.”
 ” It did prevent the modified version of Final Cut Pro from launching, which could raise suspicion for the user as well as greatly reduce the probability of posterior launches by the user.”

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