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Experts: Leopard no more secure than Tiger

updated 09:30 am EDT, Wed October 31, 2007

Leopard security analysis

In spite of Apple's efforts, Mac OS X Leopard is not fundamentally better for security than Tiger, several security experts suggest. Thomas Ptacek of Matasano Security writes that Leopard's new security features, though an improvement, still leave unnecessary gaps open. Library Randomization is meant to solve problems such as buffer overflow attacks, by preventing hackers from knowing where to place a code in memory; the equivalent of this in Windows Vista is Address Space Load Randomization. Ptacek complains, however, that Apple has not randomized as many OS components as it should have, and specifically the Dynamic Link Library.

Leopard also implements a concept called "sandboxing," which restricts what functions can be performed from certain areas even if a computer is hacked. Ptacek notes that Apple has not applied sandboxes to the most vulnerable programs in the OS, such as web browsers, mail clients or instant messaging apps. Another security specialist, Dino Dai Zovi, points to Leopard's Quick Look preview feature, which could be used launch malicious software, but is only quarantined against network access. "Increasingly these days IM, email and web surfing are where most of the attacks are coming from, not directly on your network," says Zovi.

Independent consultant Rich Mogull criticizes Leopard's firewall implementation, saying that it is not what it should have been. Controlling access to individual services is "very complicated and very hard to get the right settings," according to Mogull. Moreover, upon installing Leopard, he found that his firewall had been disabled despite its presence being a default setting.

Ptacek observes that it is good Leopard has extra security before the Mac OS becomes a target of major worms or viruses, but he believes there is still much left to accomplish. "I like the direction they're headed," he comments, "I'm just saying that they've got a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft."

by MacNN Staff




  1. IonCable

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Tiger isn't secure?

    "I like the direction they're headed," he comments, "I'm just saying that they've got a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft."

    Of course we have a long way to catch up, you can't write 1,000+ virus', secutrity holes, and the like in a day.

    I wasn't aware that Tiger had any "Major" security issues. Of course there are some, there will always be some. I mean a criminal CAN get into Fort Knox if he really wants too, but does the effort equal the reward and once there can you get back out.

  1. jmelrose

    Joined: Dec 1969


    h*** freezes over?

    "I'm just saying that they've got a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft."

    Well there's a first time THAT has been applied to the Mac OS...

    And I'm not sure it's entirely accurate, either.

  1. digiprod

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Where do we find these so called EXPERTS.

    Leopard adds to an already stellar record on security. Catching Microsoft? Really now, with their dismal record on security this is a joke. UNIX has always been more secure than Windows.

    Leopard uses a better firewall, more finite file sharing, sandboxing and better controls against social engineering with the way it handles downloads and opening applications.

    Please give us all a break and use some facts as Leopard has made some significant strides with, without being totally annoying and unusable like Vista! Vista was out of the box two minutes and already had to be patched for security!

  1. MacnTX

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "I'm just saying that they've got a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft."

    He's right. OS X doesn't come even remotely close to having the kind of malware, security holes, and bugs in their OS that Microsoft has.

  1. mgpalma

    Joined: Dec 1969




    'nuff said.

    ciao, michael

  1. ViktorCode

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No more secure?

    How come that Leopard wich has additional secure measures implemented (though not so strick as these experts would like to see) ends up no more secure than Tiger? Maybe the headline should read "Experts: Leopard is not as secure as it could have been" or simply "Security expert are saying Leopard is less secure than Vista" - at least it gives the readers smell of BS before they read the news.

    For me there's only one measure of security: number of exploits in the wild. How Apple OSes end up clean on data theft, malware, spyware etc. and Microsoft OSes are clearly not? And I'm supposed to believe that MS doing better job of security after this?

    And please, stop telling us about grim future where "the Mac OS becomes a target of major worms or viruses", we all know it won't happen in next five years at very least, because global market shares never change overnight, AND because you'll need something more besides market share to made your system easy target for hackers.

  1. Terrin

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I will buy into the whole the Mac isn't secure when at least one virus for the Mac is released into the wild. However, there hasn't been one virus for Mac OSX released into the wild. Not one person has been able hack a Mac remotely. The only exception has been when a contest had to change the rules around to allow a person using a Mac to be directed to a malicious website. Someone came up for a hack for that. Apple fixed it.

    Moreover, Vista merely emulated a lot of what OSX already does. However, it did it to the annoying extreme where you are constantly bombarded with annoying windows asking you if you really want to do something or completely telling you you can't do something.

    Further, I hate to tell the powers that be at MacNN, but the Firewall in OSX is shut off by default. Perhaps it was meant to be said that the upon installing Leopard his personal Firewall settings were deleted. For what it is worth, I agree that OSX's firewall lacks a user friendly interface.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Why do you publish comments from industry partisan who are also obviously idiots? Anyone who can say with a straight face that Apple has a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft in the area of security has absolutely no credibility and should not be given a forum in a credible media outlet. Let them have their rants on their own dime (or on Bill's) amongst their fandom.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: why?

    well duh, to get hits. Any post which contains something stupid some anal-yst said about Apple/Mac computers, or something about Zune or some other alleged "iPod-killer" is guaranteed to get clicks.

    as for the article above, are we sure it wasn't nicked from The Onion? I mean, that last sentence reads like pure comedy gold. "They've got a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft." ROTFLMAO!

  1. robttwo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    just to spite...

    I have turned off my firewall (internal and router) and for the next 18 hours of halloween I am going to do nothing but download stuff from Limewire and randomly open and run it. I am going to open every piece of spam mail and any attachments. I am connecting to every "pirate" website and joining forums and downloading everything.

    And tomorrow - nothing will have happened. Dumbass "consultants."


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