How Mac Apps Can Spy on Your Computer

Apple bragged that its Macs were a virus-free utopia, but that was before hackers and criminals decided to focus their efforts on the operating system. Your Mac is now just as vulnerable to viruses as any Windows PC, and a new report shows that hackers can gain access to your computer through what you think will be better protected: the Mac App Store.

According to software developer and privacy expert Felix Krause , third-party apps can spy on everything you do on your Mac, even if they’re running in the background. Here’s what you need to know about this new vulnerability and what you can do about it.

Why should you worry

In a report released on February 10, Krause explains that virtually any Mac app can take advantage of the developer feature in Apple’s macOS software to take screenshots of your computer at any time. There is no warning when the app is taking a screenshot and it runs even when the app is in the background.

Worse, Krause discovered that he could combine these screenshots with optical character recognition (OCR) software to automatically read any text included in them. This means that hackers could potentially use an exploit to steal your account passwords, read your email, or even spy on your banking information.

According to BleepingComputer , Krause reported the issue directly to Apple back in November 2017, but the company never released a patch.

How to fix it

Unfortunately, there is nothing you, as the owner of the Mac, can do to block this vulnerability – the problem must be fixed by Apple. Krause offers several possible options that might solve the problem without completely removing the ability to take screenshots in third-party apps (which is still a useful feature).

The obvious solution for Apple is to reinforce the screening process for any apps that need access to information on your screen. This can help you catch dangerous software before it makes it to the App Store.

On a more granular level, Apple should also give users more control over how screenshots work. Third-party apps must need permission from the owner of the computer before they can start taking screenshots, and macOS should display a quick notification every time an app accesses your screen.

If Apple makes these changes, the problem goes away, but in the meantime, there are a few precautions you can take.

What to do now

If you want to be completely safe, you should completely stop using third-party applications. If that’s not an option, think about the apps you are using. Only download apps from trusted companies, and remember to manually close each app when you’re done using it. Hopefully this will keep you safe until Apple releases an official fix.

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