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The Mystery Of The Silver Sparrow Virus


Isadora Teich wrote this article


It’s no secret that things have been a bit chaotic lately, and many people are trying new things to cope and even thrive in this new world. Unfortunately, many cyber criminals have seen a big opportunity in a world largely ruled by digital transactions and Zoom meetings.

Hackers, fishers, scammers, and even more malevolent criminals are taking the opportunity to run scams, exploit apps, and even use malware to take advantage of the situation as we live our lives increasingly virtually.

According to Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General, “Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19.”

INTERPOL’S cybercrime analysis reveals a landscape full of scams and malware, as well as warns of a likely rise in these activities. We will take a look at exactly what you should look out for in sites and apps, as well as one of the most puzzling cases of widespread malware ever: The Silver Sparrow virus.

The Problem With The Silver Sparrow Virus

What if I told you that, currently, tens of thousands of M1 Macs are infected with a virus? No one knows how it got there and no one is sure what it does. It sounds like the beginning of a scifi movie, right?

Getting information on this virus is difficult, because no one knows much about it yet, and what we do know only raises more questions. At present, it seems that some unknown actor put malware that does almost nothing on 30,000 computers for no reason at all.

However, that simply does not make sense.

Let’s take a closer look.

Security researcher Red Canary has published information about a new “activity cluster.” Malwarebytes has found that it has infected 29,139 Macs in more than 150 countries. This new strain of viruses is called Silver Sparrow and affects both Intel and Apple silicon processors.

Why All The Fuss?

So far, it has not done anything. However, Red Canary reports that it is still a serious threat, as it is ready for some unknown actor to manipulate at any time. They found that this virus is “positioned to deliver a potentially impactful payload at a moment’s notice.”

So, we essentially have a mysterious virus on 30,000 computers globally, that could be used to do anything at all at some point in the future once the unknown creator or user decides the time is right.

At present, no one knows who that is or for what purpose.So far, there is no proof that the virus has done anything, but, that is no future guarantee.

The Response

Apple claims to have shut it down. They revoked the developer certificates that allowed the virus to propagate. They also say that new machines can’t be infected with it due to these changes. Investigations by both Red Canary and Apple reveal that the computers which have been infected with Silver Sparrow show no negative signs yet.

In the earlier days of Apple, a big selling point of their products amongst non-tech people was the belief that they couldn’t get viruses. I remember being told by many people that my Macbook “didn’t even need anti-virus software.”

Whether this was ever true or not, these days it is certainly not true. In fact, Silver Sparrow isn’t even the first malware to infect Apple’s new M1 chip. Another was discovered a week or so before Silver Sparrow was reported.

If you are wondering if your machine has been infected, take a look at Red Canary’s blog post. Your computer will show no outward signs at all, and you will have to look much deeper. While it is too late to avoid Silver Sparrow, there are actually a lot of things you can do to avoid malware and scams.

A Rise In Security Threats

Due to the rise of the virtual office and social life, we are likely to see more viruses, scams, and other malware than ever before.

INTERPOL reports that we should be on the lookout for some specific threats. These include covid-themed online scams, as well as online scams relating to vaccination. These may include people offering non-scientific “medical products” to protect you from covid, which you may never receive if you order them, or leveraging concern and fear in other ways to steal money from others.

For example, there are many scam companies online, which, for a fee, will help struggling small businesses apply for government grants.

Some of the grants they talk about do not even exist, and all existing grants are completely free to apply for on official government websites.

While some of these sites will actually do what they say, you do not need to pay anyone, or give third parties your personal information, to find these grants or apply to them.

Some Things To Look Out For

Network intrusion and cyberattacks to steal data will likely occur as well.

Many phishing schemes have become more sophisticated. They specifically target small businesses and the expanded number of work from home employees. You may even receive an email, text, or other message that appears to be from a colleague or boss at the company you work for, or another business you work with, but is not.

We’ve even seen one of our partnered clients get sent what looked like an NDA form to be signed online. Working with us (or any agency), that’s something that happens quite often. Clearly, someone out there was trying to target those who might be working with an agency, and we warned all of our partners of what to look out for just in case.

A good rule of thumb: If someone you know sends you a link out of the blue that looks odd, don’t click it.

Check in with them first.

Many people end up with viruses and malware on their machines by clicking suspicious links.

While there is a long-running joke about scammers sending out emails claiming to be foreign princes who need your banking information, today’s cyber criminals are often much smarter and way more subtle.

Scam Apps

Especially if you are an avid mobile gamer, look out.

Last fall, the Avast team identified rogue mobile applications in the Google Play Store. These mainly affect fans of Minecraft and other gaming applications.

These applications are known as fleeceware.This kind of scam gets users by offering fun extras such as colorful wallpapers and other modifications for games. They appear free at first by offering trial periods. After the trial period ends, each one starts charging as much as $90 a week. More of these likely pop up every day.

It’s important to keep in mind that these scams are largely targeting children, who often play online games, are swayed easily by things that seem colorful or fun, and don’t really understand the value of money.

They may not even remember downloading anything suspicious, or know how to identify scams. If you want to see a list of scam applications discovered by Avast and learn how to get rid of them, you can find that information here.

Final Thoughts

As the digital landscape evolves and becomes an even bigger part of our everyday lives, it makes sense that criminals will evolve their approaches to exploiting that.

Have you encountered any strange scams or viruses since the pandemic began? Talk to me.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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