'BackStab' is back: Palo Alto Networks unravels old cyberattack with new twist

Palo Alto Networks, the security company, has revealed details of a new “BackStab” attack used to steal private information from mobile device backup files stored on a victim’s computer. A white paper from the company’s Unit 42 threat intelligence team explains how cyberattackers are using malware to remotely infiltrate computers and execute BackStab attacks in an unprecedented fashion.

 BackStab is back: Palo Alto Networks unravels old cyberattack with new twist

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Used to capture text messages, photos, geographic location data, and almost any other type of information stored on a mobile device in their possession, BackStab has been employed by law enforcement and cyberattackers alike. The Unit 42 white paper shows how BackStab attacks have evolved to leverage malware for remote access and why Apple iOS devices have been a primary target for attacks, as the default settings in iTunes store unencrypted backup files in fixed locations and automatically sync devices when they are connected to a user’s computer.

“Cybersecurity teams must realize, just because an attack technique is well-known, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a threat. While conducting our research into BackStab attacks, we gathered over 600 malware samples from 30 countries around the world that were used to conduct remote BackStab attacks,” said Ryan Olson, director of threat intelligence, Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks


- iOS users should encrypt their local backups or use the iCloud backup system and choose a secure password.

- Users should upgrade iOS devices to the latest version, which creates encrypted backups by default.

- When connecting an iOS device to an untrusted computer or charger via a USB cable, users should not click the “Trust” button when the dialog box is displayed.

Updated Date: Dec 08, 2015 12:52:00 IST