Still looking for a reason to upgrade to iOS 8? Security firm Trend Micro released a report on Wednesday revealing that some of the most dangerous spyware it has ever seen is making the rounds on iOS devices, but is far more effective on iOS 7 than on Apple’s latest operating system release.
The spyware is part of something Trend Micro is calling Operation Pawn Storm, “an active economic and political cyber-espionage operation that targets a wide range of entities, like the military, governments, defense industries, and the media.”
The operation gets its name from the strategy of the hackers — using countless pawns to infect low-profile targets (individuals) in order to get closer and closer to its primary targets (governmental and military organizations).
The malicious application is called XAgent, and once it has been installed on an iOS 7 device, the app icon is hidden and it immediately begins running in the background. If you try to terminate the process, the app just restarts itself. On the other hand, the app icon is visible on iOS 8 and doesn’t automatically restart, which means that users with upgraded devices won’t have any trouble finding the malware.
Like other dangerous mobile malware, you can get infected simply by clicking on a compromised link, even if you haven’t jailbroken your device. Once the malware is on your device, it can be used to “steal personal data, record audio, make screenshots, and send them to a remote command-and-control (C&C) server.”
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to avoid having to worry about your iPhone getting infected: don’t install anything from a strange external link. If your device warns you that a link might not be safe, leave it alone.