Common malware slipped past the macOS notarization process twice

Apple immediately revoked the notarization, but the adware slipped through again

Apple launched a notarization process for all apps and software created for macOS in February to weed out malware. Recently, a college student discovered adware with a full macOS notarization, according to WIRED

Mac computers were once impenetrable vaults, which led to few hackers attempting to infiltrate them. Those who tried would generally hit roadblocks. Today, Macs are hacked nearly as often as PCs, which lead to the February launch of Apple’s notarization process. 

This notarization is required for all apps and software designed for macOS. And if the notarization doesn’t exist, a user can’t run the software without a workaround. However, college student Peter Dantini purposefully downloaded malware, fully expecting his Mac to reject the installation. To his surprise, the well-traveled Shlayer adware installed on his machine without issue. 

Dantini alerted Apple of the notarized malware on Aug. 28, and Apple immediately revoked the notarization certificates. Unfortunately, two days later, the malware reappeared with a notarization from a different Apple Developer ID. Dantini again alerted Apple of the issue. 

Apple addressed the issue, saying, "Malicious software constantly changes, and Apple’s notarization system helps us keep malware off the Mac and allow us to respond quickly when it’s discovered.” The company continued, "Upon learning of this adware, we revoked the identified variant, disabled the developer account, and revoked the associated certificates. We thank the researchers for their assistance in keeping our users safe."

The fact that Apple quickly addressed the situation is reassuring, but this is proof that relying on Apple’s notarization system alone isn’t enough. While it can help prevent most malware, having a strong antivirus and a critical eye for iffy apps is key. 

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