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Code Stolen After Developer Installed Trojanized App

In a perfect example of how a breach could have an unexpected impact, application builder Panic on Wednesday announced that it experienced source code theft after a developer unknowingly installed a Trojanized application in early May.

In a perfect example of how a breach could have an unexpected impact, application builder Panic on Wednesday announced that it experienced source code theft after a developer unknowingly installed a Trojanized application in early May.

The specific app was HandBrake, a video converting tool that experienced a breach in early May, when one of its download mirror servers was compromised and configured to distribute a remote administration Trojan (RAT) for Mac computers.

After discovering the incident, HandBrake posted a security alert on its website, informing users that those who downloaded the application between May 2 and May 6 might have been infected. Only the download mirror at had been compromised, but all users were advised to verify their installation.

One of those who downloaded the Trojanized HandBrake variant was Steven Frank, the founder of Panic, a company that creates software for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Because of that, attackers gained access to source code repositories and cloned them.

This resulted in attackers gaining access to some of the company’s source code repos. After investigating the incident, Panic discovered that the method the attackers used to clone the source code prevented them from stealing all of the repositories.

The developers also received an email from the attackers, who informed them they would release the source code online if a large Bitcoin ransom wasn’t paid. The company, however, decided against paying, as this wouldn’t guarantee the attackers would keep their end of the bargain.

“This hack hasn’t slowed us down. That source is already missing a ton of fixes and improvements we committed over the last week alone, and six months from now it will be missing major critical new features. In short: it’s old and getting older,” Frank says.

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Immediately after discovering the hack, Panic contacted Apple and the FBI, and the former has even helped them roll their Developer ID and invalidate the old one, although it wasn’t believed to have been compromised.

Furthermore, the company also notes that they have no indication of customer information being accessed in the hack, nor indication that Panic Sync (a “secure service to keep your Panic data in sync across all your apps and devices”) data was accessed. The company’s web server wasn’t compromised either, it seems.

“As soon as I discovered the infection on my Mac, I disabled it, took the Mac out of commission, and we began the incredibly lengthy process of changing all of my passwords, rotating the relevant secret keys throughout our infrastructure, and so on, to re-lock our doors and hopefully prevent anything else from being stolen,” Frank explains.

This incident shows that repackaged versions of legitimate apps can fly under the radar and cause significant damage, especially if the user doesn’t pay attention to the permissions requested during the installation process.

“So, I managed to download within the three day window during which the infection was unknown, managed to hit the one download mirror that was compromised, managed to run it and breeze right through an in-retrospect-sketchy authentication dialog, without stopping to wonder why HandBrake would need admin privileges, or why it would suddenly need them when it hadn’t before. I also likely bypassed the Gatekeeper warning without even thinking about it, because I run a handful of apps that are still not signed by their developers. And that was that, my Mac was completely, entirely compromised in 3 seconds or less,” Frank notes.

Related: Software Download Mirror Distributes Mac Malware

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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