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Symantec recommends users tighten security on Macs

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. russellb

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "Macs are safe mainly due to a smaller marketshare" .... "While he emphasizes that Macs can be just as vulnerable as PCs"

    God I think i will be sick .... the skys falling and we want to desperately make $$$$ from this new growing market.

    I am all for security and have no problem that Macs can and have vunerebilites BUT please dont even start to put Mac and PC in the same sentence or even on the same page when you talk about virus protection and malware protection etc.

    If I can translate the persons comments to real speak = we are not making $$$ off all those switchers so we have to scare people into buying our software that they don't really need.

  1. MacnTX

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No Thanks...

    Funny, but I've been using a Mac for over 4 1/2 years now with no Symantec security software whatsoever, yet I've not run into one solitary issue or threat where I've ever needed their useless software to "protect" me.

    Here's a word to the wise, don't waste your money on any of their needless junkware.

  1. vinnieA2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    business must be slow...

    I got off the Symantec Virus update train with the switch to OS X, and I surely don't miss it a bit. Nor do I miss the rather expensive update fees, which seem to be somewhat of a waste since I only had one virus (during system 7) that was ever detected. And I've been using a Mac since 1985. As long as you don't download from questionable sources, avoid promiscuity with flash drives, and keep adequate backups, I don't think most people will need to worry for a while.

  1. MiMiC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Be Vigilant

    Although I don't see Macs having anywhere near the same issues as PCs, it is always good to stay vigilant rather than arrogant. Paranoia is always the best policy with regards to security. ALWAYS!

    "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."

    And no link?? :)

  1. Titanium Man

    Joined: Dec 1969



    A virus-protection company insists we need to buy virus protection programs? Inconceivable!

  1. njfuzzy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    In other news...

    In other news, flagging companies like to drum up headlines.

  1. pinkfloyd

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Market share? C'mon!

    This guy is blowing smoke. If market share is at 5% now, why aren't 5% of viruses affecting Macs? In fact, not even 0.01% are affecting Macs.

    It has nothing to do with market share. It has everything to do with the strength of the security of the OS, period. If the time comes to buy antivirus software for my Mac, I'll do so. It's just not happening now.

  1. dscottbuch

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Paranoia NOT best


    Paranoia is NOT even close to the best policy because its unmaintainable. Almost every PC owning friend has installed virus/malware/spyware/ etc. etc. software because they have been trained to be paranoid by the likes of Symantec. The problem is the computer ends up being unusable - slow, crashing, overly protective warnings, etc. The result - they turn everything off. Its this kind of FUD that makes things less secure, not more.

  1. kmochjw

    Joined: Dec 1969


    mac home market share?

    Somewhere I recall hearing (possibly on one of several tech talk shows I listen to) that the market share for Macs in homes or possibly non-business use is more like 20 or 25%. A number higher than 5% makes sense, but has anyone ever done a survey/research which shows a market share like 20-25%?

  1. rjrasch

    Joined: Dec 1969


    CIO Magazine??

    Clueless Internet Observer Magazine??. Did they need a little boost in ad-click revenue? This Mac user recommends Symantec tighten up its pie-hole to prevent stupidity leaks.

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