Category Archives: 10.13 High Sierra

how to easily spoof a user’s password

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:

DetectX Swift History

DetectX Swift beta has arrived

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! 🙂

how to remove “Plugins Button” from Chrome

Update: DetectX v2.75+ now deals correctly with the Plugins Button adware and the instructions below are now redundant.  Just ‘Search’ and ‘Trash All…’ should be sufficient.


If you’re having trouble trying to remove the “Plugins Button” from Chrome because its ‘managed and cannot be removed or disabled’, then follow this procedure.

1. Launch DetectX and do a search. You should see at least 5 items. Do NOT click the Trash button yet.

2. Quit Chrome

3. In Terminal, execute this command* (you’ll need admin privileges)

sudo /usr/bin/profiles -P; sudo -K

If you see a single configuration profile installed with the profileIdentifier ‘org.superduper.extension’, then execute

sudo /usr/bin/profiles -D; sudo -K

to remove it.

Type ‘y’ when prompted.

4. Read the caveats below, and then if appropriate, in DetectX, now click the ‘Trash All…’ button.

5. Relaunch Chrome and check that all is well.

* If you or the machine’s administrator are using ‘Managed Preferences’ and have profiles other than the one mentioned above installed, then do NOT use the ‘-D’ switch in step 3. You’ll need to identify the correct profiles. Use the -P switch to list the installed profiles and only delete the one with ‘org.superduper.extension’ identifier. Likewise, do NOT use the Trash All… feature in DetectX, which will remove the Managed Preferences folder***. Instead, double-click the items in DetectX’s window to open them in Finder and remove them manually that way.

** You’ll need to authorise the deletions when macOS asks you as DetectX doesn’t have the permissions to do that (a safety feature).

*** Note that the ‘Managed Preferences’ folder is a perfectly legitimate folder for server admins that have knowingly installed managed preferences for their users, or for those using Parental Controls. An application update for DetectX will be released shortly to more accurately target this issue rather than flagging the entire Managed Preferences folder.

how to create a bootable macOS installer

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 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 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” 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! 🙂

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