Shlayer- The Sneaky Malware That Brought Millions of Mac in Danger

Although macOS has gained the reputation of being a highly safe and secure operating system, there are cybercriminals who keep on trying to find some loophole that they can use to profit from the users through different attacks and malware. So, if you are in such a misconception that Macs cannot be attacked, then you should see the hard truth and be worried about your data on it a little more. Talking about the recent reports, Shlayer is the malware that is found out to be the most widespread macOS attack, which is so prolific that it had affected one in 10 devices.

For those who do not know what Shlayer is, it is a kind of Trojan virus which is designed for the purpose of proliferating various adware and potentially unwanted application and works on promoting fake search engines. It was disguised as Adobe Flash Player installer and many other software cracking tools.

The infection process of Shlayer usually consists of two phases, in which the user would be installing the malware first and would then install the type of adware that has been selected. The system starts being infected when the user downloads the malicious program, and the attacker that is there behind the Shlayer would have created a malware distribution system with a number of channels that would increase the chances of the malware being installed.

Shlayer has been offered as a way to monetize the websites with the help of a number of file partner programs that would be offering a high payment for each malware installation by any of the users. It has been found that there are more than 1,000 such partner sites that are used for the purpose of distributing the malware.

How Shlayer malware works?

While the Shlayer malware is quite simple, it comes in action in a wide variety of adware, asking the user for the installation. As Shlayer is itself a delivery mechanism, it can deploy some clever tricks too. Kaspersky observes one such instance in the case of Cimpli adware. In this example, the malware first tends to poses and comes in front of the user in the form of another program; in this case, it was Any Search. In the background, Cimpli makes efforts of the installation of malicious Safari extension. It then comes up with a fake notification window of “Installation Complete” through which it covers up the macOS security notification that generates the warning for the users against doing so. In this way, Shlayer tricks the Mac users into granting permission to run the installation of the software on the device.

After the user grants permission, the attacker would be able to intercept the search queries and would then seed the results with their own ads. It can be annoying for the user more than anything. But when we read out the fact that over 100 million people make use of macOS and the attacks are concerning at least 10 percent of the people who have installed Kaspersky, it is justified to assume that millions of Mac users are actually bothered by these attacks. Though it’s not yet clear that how much system had been infected by this attack yet, but it can be said that Shlayer is one of the most common security attacks on Mac, and the users should be more alert of making sure they are not the next victim of it.

Even though we can say that Apple has been doing a great job working on making macOS highly secure with every new update but unfortunately, such attacks on the operating system can be hard to prevent, especially if the users are not aware of it. A user who is unaware of this threat would simply click on a link and download the malware and would run it, thinking it to be software that it pretended to be.

Can you distinguish Shlayer?

It is important to know that distinguishing Shlayer is quite simple because of the fact that it is distributed with the support of dubious websites. Furthermore, the installer typically contains the different unwanted applications and the fake search engines, which are successively hidden in the “Custom/Advanced’ settings. As soon as the installation begins, Shlayer will deliver a pop-up window that will ask for your permission to change the browser settings. If you are granting those permissions, it will ask for the details of the user login and passwords. There would be Shlayer variants that will demand a full-screen installation window that the user cannot minimize, move, or even close. This is specifically done for preventing the user from force-quitting the installation, in case they estimation it to be suspicious.

Along with this, the installation of these kinds of unwanted applications ends up leaving behind different traces, which includes new files and entries in various directories. Thus, we can say that Shlayer is not any sophisticated malware, and if it is present, it can be easily identified; you just have to know the aspects that could give you the suspicion that something is going in the wrong way. Most of the high-end viruses do not have user-friendly interfaces that allow the user to decide if they want to continue the installation of the software or not. They would keep on running in the background, without the consent of the user and even without their knowledge.

It can easily be said that macOS platform is a good source of revenue for the cybercriminals who have always been looking for some effective ways through which they can reach out to the device users, and this is how they actively make use of social engineering techniques for the purpose of spreading the malware. The case of Shlayer can easily demonstrate that such kind of cyberthreats can even be found in the context of the legitimate sites.

How to prevent Shlayer malware attacks?

Knowing about the malware is one thing; your next step should be to be serious and think about how you can avoid these attacks. The easiest way to do so is known as to be smart enough to know that it’s not right to keep clicking anywhere.

Most of the malware and adware-deploying ads can be circumvented with the help of an adblocking browser or any extension that supports content-blocking, along with an anti-malware program or anti-virus which helps in getting hold of the threats before installing them and supports in removing the malicious software from the Mac in case your system has already been infected. It is necessary to understand that any extra software is not needed to identify the potential malware attacks, which might masquerade as Flash Player updates, pirated content, or video plugins.

Though Shlayer is few years old, the classic malware setup makes use of a fake Flash Player download that would be installing the crap that you won’t ever wish to enter your system. This is one of the most common and oldest malware deployment methods which have been used by hackers and cybercriminals. This is the reason that more and more web developers these days are abandoning the Flash, and it’s likely to lose the legacy on the web browsers.

It’s 2020, and there’s no reason for installing, updating, or for using the Flash Player for accessing online content, leaving out some exceptions; and these exceptions do not include watching illegal streams of events or any leaked movies. Even if you need to download Flash, consider getting it directly from Adobe. Luckily for the macOS users, most of the threats that can target their operating system revolve around feeding illicit advertising, and not focused on something dangerous and serious like stealing the financial data. With the help of a good web security solution, the users can work on staying protected from such threats and can work on making their web surfing better and safe.

Although people simply click for installing Flash Player to watch some content, these days, and almost every type of content can be conveniently accessed through legal and cheap means. So in case, you get any pop up regarding installing the Flash Player or any other software for watching an NBA game or anything else, be sure that you have received a fake link that will show you nothing but will just install the malware on your system. It’s the carelessness that can cause damage to you.