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3 million iOS and macOS apps were exposed to potent supply-chain attacks

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Vulnerabilities that went undetected for a decade left thousands of macOS and iOS apps susceptible to supply-chain attacks. Hackers could have added malicious code compromising the security of millions or billions of people who installed them, researchers said Monday.

The vulnerabilities, which were fixed last October, resided in a “trunk” server used to manage CocoaPods, a repository for open source Swift and Objective-C projects that roughly 3 million macOS and iOS apps depend on. When developers make changes to one of their “pods”—CocoaPods lingo for individual code packages—dependent apps typically incorporate them automatically through app updates, typically with no interaction required by end users.

Code injection vulnerabilities

“Many applications can access a user’s most sensitive information: credit card details, medical records, private materials, and more,” wrote researchers from EVA Information Security, the firm that discovered the vulnerability. “Injecting code into these applications could enable attackers to access this information for almost any malicious purpose imaginable—ransomware, fraud, blackmail, corporate espionage… In the process, it could expose companies to major legal liabilities and reputational risk.”

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