updated 08:15 pm EST, Tue December 18, 2007
Symantec on Mac security
Apple's operating system has a reputation for being secure and free from malicious users causing headaches, but with Apple's popularity on the uprise, users should learn basic maintenance and security procedures for their favored operating system. Tech news site CIO recently spoke with Ollie Whitehouse, architect for Symantec's Advanced Threat Research Team, about OS security, especially in regards to large corporations. Whitehouse says that Macs are safe mainly due to a smaller marketshare, but as Apple's popularity increases, so will the threats against the company's operating system.
While he emphasizes that Macs can be just as vulnerable as PCs, he notes that Apple has done a good job with Leopard by implementing many new security features, especially with SeatBelt and Address Space Layout Randomization, or ASLR. SeatBelt is designed to allow programs to run in the way they need, but binds the software from manipulating system-level resources that are not pertinent to its operation. ASLR randomly moves important files to different locations on the drive so that hackers have difficulty predicting where to find them.
With Boot Camp and many virtualization options available to Intel Mac users, Whitehouse says that this can be a "back door" for malicious users. While there have been no recorded back door attacks on Macintosh computers, he says that it is only a matter of time before one occurs. Sandbox options like CrossOver Mac he says are better than running a full-fledged virtualization system, since it provides the application a finite space to occupy. rather than being right out in the open.
Whitehouse recommends that Apple should tighten up on these technologies to keep its users' safe from harm. While Apple neglected to comment on these issues it did issue a 14-page document detailing what customers can do to their machine in order to firm up security.