One of the tech world’s most protected firms has joined the list of companies speaking out about the growing wave of hacker attacks.
Apple announced Tuesday that it was hit by a hacker attack affecting “a limited number of Mac systems” through a hole in Java’s plug-in for Web browsers.
“Apple has identified malware which infected a limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers. The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers.”
“We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network,” the tech giant said in a statement. “There is no evidence that any data left Apple. We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware.”
The Californian company supposes that the hackers who penetrated its computers were likely to belong the same group that had gained access to a number of Facebook employees’ machines.
Those Facebook attackers reached their targets’ computers using an infected developer’s website that exploited a vulnerability in Java; Apple says the same trick was used to access its employees’ machines.
The same software was used to launch attacks against Twitter on 1 February, Reuters was told by a person close to the investigation.
Apple suggested that the breach took place because of tensions which are heating up over U.S. allegations that the Chinese military engages in cyber espionage on U.S. companies.
“This is a new campaign. It’s not like the other ones you read about where everyone can tell it’s China,” one source said.
U.S. cyber security firm Mandiant claimed earlier this week that it has uncovered evidence that the Chinese military are to blame of cyber attacks on American businesses. The White House said it has repeatedly raised concerns about Chinese cyber theft with Beijing.
The way the hackers gained success to Apple’s machines marks the highest-profile cyber attacks to date on businesses running Mac computers.
As a rule, hackers choose machines running the Windows operating system to stole user’s data, but it looks like they are now interested in Apple products as the company gained market share over Microsoft Corp.
“This is the first really big attack on Macs,” said the source, who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. “Apple has more on its hands than the attack on itself.”
Charlie Miller, an expert on Apple security and co-author of the Mac Hacker’s Handbook, suggested that the cyber attacks showed hackers were investing more time studying the Mac OS X operating system to attack Apple computers successfully.
Mr Miller provided an example, noting that hackers recently found a fairly sophisticated way to attack Macs by exploiting a flaw in Adobe Systems Inc’s Flash software.
“The only thing that was making it safe before is that nobody bothered to attack it. That goes away if somebody bothers to attack it,” the expert said.