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New Backstab cyberattack targeting iOS devices

By Shannon Williams
Mon 14 Dec 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Details of a new attack method have been revealed by security company Palo Alto Network, which sees the theft of private information from mobile device backup files that are stored on a victim’s computer. 

The BackStab attacks see cyber criminals use malware to remotely infiltrate computers, Palo Alto explains. According to company, iOS devices are particularly vulnerable. 

Used to capture text messages, photos, geographic location data, and almost any other type of information stored on a mobile device in their possession, BackStab has been employed by law enforcement and cyberattackers alike, Palo Alto says.

According to the company’s Unit 42 whitepaper, BackStab attacks have evolved to leverage malware for remote access. It says Apple iOS devices have been a primary target for attacks, as the default settings in iTunes store unencrypted backup files in fixed locations and automatically sync devices when they are connected to a user’s computer. 

“Cybersecurity teams must realise, just because an attack technique is well-known, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a threat,” explains Ryan Olson, director of threat intelligence, Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks.

“While conducting our research into BackStab attacks, we gathered over 600 malware samples from 30 countries around the world that were used to conduct remote BackStab attacks,” he says. 

Palo Alto Networks suggest iOS users encrypt their local backups or use the iCloud backup system and choose a secure password. The company says users should upgrade iOS devices to the latest version, which creates encrypted backups by default. 

Additionally, when connecting an iOS device to an untrusted computer or charger via a USB cable, users should not click the Trust button when the dialogue box is displayed.

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