Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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macOS utility NightOwl now contains shady botnet code

A few years back, I recommended an app called NightOwl, which allows you to toggle your Mac between dark and light mode on a schedule. While I used it for a while, it eventually got supplanted by built-in macOS features.

I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who abandoned it. At some point the app was sold by its developers to another company, and according to some investigation by web developer Taylor Robinson, that firm injected some sketchy code1 that basically turns your Mac into an internet gateway for the company’s use:

[The app] forcibly joins your devices into a botnet for use of market research, without your knowledge (other than the TOS in small text on the download page) or express consent (this feature cannot be turned off, even when the app is quit).

As Robinson points out, this is documented in the terms of service, but I don’t think the average user is likely to notice it. Moreover, the means by which it is doing this is not only deeply shady, but also introduces a potential security risk. Robinson has put together thorough information about how to fully remove the app.

I hadn’t run NightOwl for some time, but it was still installed on my Mac mini, though it had clearly not been updated to the newer version as none of the files mentioned in the post were present. But if you are still using this app on the regular, it’s probably best to uninstall it. I’ll be updating my original post with a link to this story.

[Thanks to reader Arturo for sending this in.]

  1. Even shadier is Robinson’s point that the app makes use of several open source software packages without including the appropriate licenses, a big no-no. 
—Linked by Dan Moren

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