Apple confirms unusual security breach that could affect millions of users

"aple logo"Apple Inc. has removed some applications from its App Store after developers in China were tricked into using software tools that added malicious code in an unusual security breach.

Apple gave no details of which companies were affected. But Tencent Ltd. said its popular WeChat app was affected and the company released a new version after spotting the malicious code. Chinese news reports said others affected included banks, an airline and a popular music service.

The malicious code spread through a counterfeit version of Apple’s Xcode tools used to create apps for its iPhones and iPads, according to the company. It said the counterfeit tools spread when developers obtained them from “untrusted sources” rather than directly from the company.

The malicious software collects information from infected devices and uploads it to outside servers, according to Palo Alto Networks, a U.S.-based security firm.

It was first publicized last week by security researchers at Alibaba Group, the e-commerce giant, who dubbed it XcodeGhost.

The creators of the malware took advantage of public frustration with Beijing’s Internet filters, which hamper access to Apple and other foreign websites. That prompts some people to use copies of foreign software or documents that are posted on websites within China to speed up access.