Security-based Mac apps were secretly spying on your browser data

The Adware Doctor issues were first spotted by security researcher Patrick Wardle. Wardle detailed the app's flaws last month but Apple just removed the app today

Security-based Mac apps were secretly spying on your browser data

Adware Medic was a direct copy of an app developed by Malwarebytes.

This included data from various browsers, separate files dedicated to recent Google searches, and a complete list of all apps installed on the system (including code-signatures, whether they were 64-bit compatible, and information about where they were downloaded from).

It claims it prevents "malware and malicious files from infecting your Mac" and claims to be one of the best apps to do so.

Mac security guru Patrick Wardle noted last week that in addition to the advertised functions of removing adware and malware from Macs, the software also collected people's personal data including their browsing history, then transmitted that data as a password-protected archive to a server on the internet.

It's not yet known if any other Trend Micro products have similar issues, but it's interesting to see that three apps have slipped past Apple's App Store rules in such a short space of time.

While neither Apple nor Trend has responded to a request for comment on the matter, the removals are nearly certainly a response to reports in recent days that the products appeared to covertly collect and upload private user data. However, since then other similarly problematic apps have been discovered.

"This was a one-time data collection, done for security purposes (to analyze whether a user had recently encountered adware or other threats, and thus to improve the product & service)", Trend Micro explains, adding that the data was uploaded to a server in the United States on Amazon Web Services, not in China.

Also removed is App Uninstall (spotted by security researcher Joshua Long), another product under Trend Micro's developer account.

Trend Micro is yet to explain the connection with shady apps from other developers and why the its products were removed from the App Store. Shortly after Thomas Reed, a longtime Mac security blogger who now works for Malwarebytes, pointed out several more applications doing the same thing: Open Any Files, Dr. Antivirus and Dr. Cleaner. Cleaner, which are distributed by developer Trend Micro, Inc., reportedly collected and uploaded users' browser history to their servers, according to a 9to5Mac report on Sunday. Already, there are calls for Apple to consider hiring an independent board to oversee app store approvals and make this area more transparent. A representative of the company told BleepingComputer that the company statement would be updated continuously.

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