Category Archives: 10.11
Spoofing or phishing – presenting a user with fake authentication requests – is a common email tactic, but it’s not the only vector where you need to be on your guard. Every version of macOS is vulnerable to a very simple phishing attack right on your desktop that doesn’t require admin privileges to run, would not be detected by GateKeeper or XProtect, and which could easily be placed on your mac by any of the nefarious malware / adware installer scripts that come with some less reputable software downloads.
This attack isn’t new, but it’s not often talked about. The easiest way to see how it works is in this quick 4-minute demo:
As you can see, it’s easy to grab the icon of any Application and put it in the script; it doesn’t even have to be the icon of an app that’s running. The simple demo I gave above could easily launch iTunes first to increase the coherence of the attack, or it could use a completely different icon, including the icon of security programs you may have running on your mac.
How can you check?
If you were presented with a password request like this and wanted to check whether it’s legitimate or not, an easy way would be to use my free utility DetectX Swift’s Profiler. Click the Profiler function, and search for ‘osascript’ within the Running Processes section. Note how DetectX Swift shows you the text of the script being run, confirming that this dialog is up to no good:
It’s been unusually quiet on Applehelpwriter these past few months, and the reason is that I’ve been devoting all my time and efforts to the new version of DetectX. The new version is called DetectX Swift because (yeah, you guessed it) I wrote it in Swift and because it’s considerably faster than its older sibling.
DetectX Swift’s got a new interface, but there’s far more going on under the hood. The Search uses some fancy heuristics as well as hard-coded and live update search definitions to ensure it provides the very best in security threat scanning.
The new Profile view employs some super cool dynamic highlighting and lets you inspect the contents not only of directories but also of scripts, plists and other files that could execute troublesome code on your mac.
There’s changes in the History view, too, both in the display and functions. One of the coolest things I like about the new History function is that you can run a diff on any previous run against the latest run, immediately seeing how they differ.
There’s tons more to DetectX Swift, but the best way to find out about it is just to try it. The beta version is free to use for both Home and Commercial users, so just head off over to its home page and grab yourself a copy!
Don’t forget to keep us informed of how it goes. The beta is still in an early stage and more features are slated as it develops, but feel free to tell us about anything that you feel could be done better or things that you’d like to see added.
Share and enjoy! 🙂
Pretty soon now I’ll be releasing the first beta of DetectX Swift. Lots more details will be forthcoming over the next few days and weeks, but here’s a quick 1-minute look at how the new Profiler function works and some of the cool things you can do with it.
If you are preparing to install macOS on multiple computers, one of the things that can make your life simpler (and the waiting shorter) is a bootable USB installer.
The idea of the installer is that you only need to download the macOS Installer.app from the App Store once. Usually, when you run the installer after downloading it, it’ll delete itself and you have to go through the whole download process again on each machine or disk that you want to install macOS onto. By making a bootable USB drive, you simply plug the drive in to your mac, launch the installer app and tell it where to install the OS. You can repeat this as many times as you like as the installer will remain safe on your USB.
There are various ways to make a bootable USB installer, but they all involve the same process:
1. Download the macOS Installer from the App Store.
2. Run the
createinstallmedia command from the Terminal, an AppleScript or a helper app.
3. Reboot your mac, choosing the newly created USB as the startup disk.
4. Run the installer.app from the USB.
Step 2 is where the fun is. The
createinstallmedia command can be tricky to get right, particularly if you’re not familiar with working on the command line. For those of you that are, follow Apple’s instructions here.
For a little more convenience, I wrapped all that inside an AppleScript which will first ask you for the location of the installer, then ask you to choose the USB target.
For maximum convenience, I also wrote a free little Swift app I’ve dubbed ‘Boot Buddy‘ (cos “Create bootable macOS Installer Drive.app” just didn’t quite have the right ring to it..!) that will present the whole thing in a neat little user interface. Three clicks, more or less, and you’re done.
Boot Buddy doesn’t require an admin password to install, but you do need to provide an admin password to actually create the bootable installer as the
createinstallmedia process has to be run as root. Boot Buddy doesn’t see or use this in any way whatsoever other than to start the
createinstallmedia process or to cancel it (if you choose to do so); authorisation is handed off to macOS to take care of.
Boot Buddy requires macOS 10.11 or higher and can create bootable USBs from Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra and High Sierra installer apps.
Share and enjoy! 🙂
The idea behind BackupCam is to keep a continuous, rolling video of the last few minutes of activity on your mac, in just the same way as dash cams in cars work.
There’s a couple of scenarios where this might be useful. If you’re working on a project where ‘undo’ doesn’t always work reliably or when you most need it to – Xcode, for example, can often let you get your project in a mess without offering you a clear path as to how you got there or how to get back, short of discarding all changes in a particular file – with BackupCam you’ll be able to see exactly how you got to where you are.
Similarly, BackupCam can also help you to review changes that you may not have noticed at the time – perhaps if you were distracted by something else happening, either on screen or off. This can help both as a security and a troubleshooting tool
BackupCam can record up to the previous 30 minutes activity, so may help you recover something that is missed even by Time Machine or other traditional file backup mechanism.
More details are over on the BackupCam webpage, but I’ll just note here that BackupCam can also be controlled by AppleScript, with all the flexibility that that offers. Here’s a sample script that checks whether the last recording was longer ago than the time interval set in BackupCam. If it is, it kicks off a new recording session:
BackupCam is still in the early stages of development (we’re calling v1 a beta), so please feel free to report any bugs or enhancments you’d like to see. At the moment, it requires 10.11.6 or higher and only records the main display. I plan to add support for multiple displays in a future update.
I’ve been wondering ever since Yosemite what Apple had done to mess up Spotlight. It used to be my go-to way to launch apps. Faster than LaunchPad, the Dock or, of course, trawling through the Finder.
But something happened after Mavericks, and things have only being getting worse with Spotlight, right up to and including into Sierra.
Not only has Spotlight been slowed down with ads and ‘suggestions’, but we’ve also even lost the choice of re-ordering search results priority in Spotlight preferences.
I find Spotlight is not only slower than before, but it doesn’t always return the hit I want even when I know what I’m looking for. For a while, I got into the habit of searching using
locate in the Terminal. Like Spotlight, these use an index based search so can return results very fast. Eventually, I got fed up of that, and wrote my own search tool and added it to FastTasks 2
All this is not good, and if you are seeing the same degradation in Spotlight’s usefulness as I have been, try unchecking the following Preferences and see if it works to get Spotlight back up to a useful speed. With these disabled, I’ve seen a remarkable improvement in Spotlight in macOS 10.11.6.
I tend to work on the iMac at home, then take an MBP to work. Several times I’ve thought iCloud had uploaded what I had been working on at home before I left, only to find that when I got to work, the old version was still the latest one on iCloud. Of course, I checked for the spinning little progress indicator, but apparently I either missed it or it didn’t appear.
To mitigate this problem, I came up with this script to tell me what iCloud daemon is doing. If files are pending update or being updated, it will indicate which ones. It will also tell me if the iCloud daemon is either idle or busy / not responding.
This little tool will help you keep track of when Apple make changes to system config data like XProtect, Gatekeeper and the Malware Removal Tool. It will also alert you if there is a Security update in the App Store that needs to be manually applied.
Critical Updates is free for home use. Organisations wishing to license it for commercial-scale use should contact me through Sqwarq support.