All you need to hijack a Mac is an old Office document and a .zip file

Matthew N. Henry

A sequence of interconnected bugs could allow for hackers to hijack units operating on macOS using small additional than an contaminated Office doc and a .zip file, an qualified has warned.

The vulnerability was recognized by ex-NSA researcher Patrick Wardle, now doing work for security company Jamf, who observed that even fully-patched macOS Catalina units had been at threat.

The exploit uses a rigged Office doc, saved in an archaic format (.slk), to trick the goal device into allowing Office to activate macros without consent and without notifying the consumer.

The attack then can take edge of two even further vulnerabilities in get to seize management of the device. By like a dollar signal at the commence of the filename, a hacker can split no cost of the restrictive Office sandbox, although compressing the file within a .zip folder bypasses macOS controls that avert downloaded merchandise from accessing consumer information.

Mac security

Apple’s macOS has very long liked a stellar name from a security and details privateness perspective, but Apple units are by no indicates unhackable. This misconception, Wardle indicates, could guide both of those end users and security staff to underestimate the opportunity threat level.

“In the planet of Windows, macro-primarily based Office attacks are well recognized (and frankly are rather aged news). Having said that, on macOS, nevertheless these attacks are escalating in acceptance and are very en vogue, they have acquired much a lot less notice from the investigation and security community,” he wrote in a latest website article.

“Triggered by just opening a destructive (macro-laced) Office doc, no alerts, prompts, nor other consumer interactions had been expected in get to persistently infect even a fully-patched macOS Catalina method.”

The researcher did concede that the attack demands the goal particular person to log in and out of their product twice, with a even further action in the approach fulfilled with each and every login. Having said that, this does not always make the attack any a lot less possible for criminals, who are information to engage in the very long video game.

According to Wardle, Apple did not respond to his disclosure. Microsoft, for its aspect, has executed an investigation into the difficulty and verified the researcher’s results.

“[The firm has] identified that any application, even when sandboxed, is vulnerable to misuse of these APIs. We are in typical dialogue with Apple to discover solutions to these issues and assistance as necessary,” claimed a Microsoft spokesperson.

The vulnerabilities have now been patched with the hottest versions of Office for Mac. End users are therefore advised to update their Office software and running method as shortly as feasible, to shield versus attack.

By way of VICE

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