updated 09:40 am EST, Mon December 24, 2007
US Army seeks Macs
The US Army is turning to Macs in face of increasing security threats, reports say. Following Internet attacks on the likes of the Pentagon -- and other members of the military-industrial complex, such as Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman -- the Army has been working to increase its defenses against hackers, and Macs are forming a portion of this because there are said to be far fewer exploits for Mac OS X than there are for Windows. Of the Army's approximately 700,000 desktops and servers, 20,000 are made by Apple.
For years the primary obstacles have been cost and compatibility, the Army says. However, while an Apple machine is still more expensive than a comparable PC, the security issue is important enough now that requisition officers are willing to overlook the price difference. X-Serves are now increasingly prevalent in Army data centers, says Lieutenant Colonel C.J. Wallington, where they are holding up to the burden. "Those are some of the most attacked computers there are," Wallington notes. "But the attacks used against them are designed for Windows-based machines, so they shrug them off."
Similarly, where Macs were previously incompatible with technologies such as the Common Access Cards scanning system, the Army is now attempting to provide support. A CAC application for Macs should be ready by February of next year, or shortly thereafter, opening the door wider for Apple in many departments.
The company has inside marketing help, though, in the form of Jonathan Broskey, a former Apple worker who is now in charge of the Army's Mac program. The Army's efforts are also being criticized by the likes of Charlie Miller, a researcher with Independent Security Evaluators. Miller comments that while diversification is in the Army's interests, hackers may simply pick the weakest of the two targets, and cause nearly as much damage as they might have otherwise.
Miller further agrees with the notion that Macs are not as secure as they seem, citing Secunia data which suggests that nearly five times as many patches were released for Apple software last year as were for Windows. This view has been heavily disputed; regardless, Finnish security company F-Secure notes that hackers increasingly targeting Macs, and at an alarming rate. Whereas the past two years have generally produced a tiny amount of Apple-targeted code, over 100 pieces of malware have been discovered in the last two months alone.