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Is Apple's Snow Leopard as attack proof as the company believes? Probably not, but it does add some significant protections. Security companies, though, are coming out with criticism against Apple's efforts, in what seems a mix of sour grapes and legitimate points.  (Source: Simple Thoughts -- Computer Security Blog)
Are security firms' Snow Leopard gripes legitimate or just sour grapes? The answer may be be that they are a bit of both..

Just as attacks against Macs were beginning in earnest, and security software makers were ready to step into this new market and begin selling customers security suites, Apple dropped a bomb on the security software vendors -- OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" comes with built-in malware detection for a few Mac-specific viruses.

Apple, which has long lambasted Windows PCs as dangerously insecure in its advertisements, brags that its new OS offers unmatched protection against malware and cyber-attacks.  It points to hardware-based execution control for heap memory, stronger checksums for preventing memory corruption attacks, and built in antivirus protection -- dubbed XProtect -- as strong improvements in its OS design.

Now security companies are responding to Apple's boasts via blogs and emails that range from skeptical to scathing. 

Symantec was among the most critical, stating, "It is not a full-featured antivirus solution and does not have the ability to remove malware from the system.  File Quarantine is also signature-based only. Malware signatures are only as good as the definitions, requiring Apple to provide regular, timely updates."

The company points out that OS X's Software Update is not fully automatic and that it does not inform users what signatures have been downloaded, to indicate the current level of protection.  They also criticize that Apple's firewall is turned off by default and lacks the configurability of most third-party solutions.  Also they point out that the OS provides little to no protection against unauthorized access of sensitive information on disc or for information being transmitted over networks.  Finally, they say that Apple's reliance on site lists for its anti-phishing efforts make its blocking close to useless as the attacking sites typically change on a daily basis.

Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security, also criticized the new software. "It feels like they are just trying to put a tic mark in the anti-malware compliance box for the enterprise customers they are still trying to woo.  So far, it looks like a pretty 'featureless feature.' Compared to other third party options, the functionality is pretty low. It's a lot like getting a warranty on your car that only covers floor mats, " he remarks.

Sophos researcher Paul O Baccas takes a more measured approach, stating that Apple's XProtect may be somewhat useful for certain programs -- Entourage, Safari, Mail, Firefox, Thunderbird -- which call LSQuarantine, an XProtect utility that detects malware.  However, for Skype, Adium, BitTorrent and Apple's Finder -- USB drives, shared network volumes, etc. -- there is no protection, he conversely points out.  He elaborates, "They haven't really integrated an antivirus program.  They've added something which can block some malware under some conditions."

He does say that the changes are better than nothing, however.  Apple meanwhile, refused to directly respond or comment on the criticism from security software vendors.

Security vendors will be facing a double-whammy when Microsoft officially releases its more full-featured security solution for Windows XP, Vista, and the new Windows 7.  Microsoft is set to drop this free security suite, dubbed Microsoft Security Essentials, before the end of the year.

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RE: Did Apple Actually Market XProtect?
By Iaiken on 9/1/2009 10:39:04 AM , Rating: 5
Is that so? What about the following?

- Newton virus?
- OSX/Leap-A worm?
- RSPlug Trojan?
- iBotNet?
- AppleScript.THT Trojan

All of the above have been found in the wild and some of them were actually pretty wide spread. However, an interesting aspect that limited their spread was the limited extent to which OSX machines actually interface with each other. The odds that any two Macs interface is so statistically low (outside of friends) that it was all but impossible for it to spread.

There are lots of smart developers out there who are perfectly capable of writing petty nasty viruses for OSX and I am sure it wouldn't take long for them to cook something up for the Mac community. But many of them won't bother. Why? Well interviewed people at Black Hat and the the survey says: "Not worth it." That's right, the hackers who make their money hacking, say it is not worth it to them. More likely than not, it's just as "not worth it" for the criminal hacker...

Who knows, maybe you are right, but there is an abundance of evidence that points to the contrary...

RE: Did Apple Actually Market XProtect?
By Tellem on 9/1/09, Rating: -1
By Fanon on 9/1/2009 11:43:24 AM , Rating: 5
Viruses aren't the big security threat anymore; I haven't seen viruses in years. Trojans and other malware are the viruses of the day.

By omnicronx on 9/1/2009 12:13:19 PM , Rating: 2
Those are trojans that have to be installed by the user.
A virus requires user intervention also (its also just self replicatating, some would even argue that a trojan can be a virus depending on how it is written), and believe me a few of those are malware/viruses and not merely trojans. What you are talking about are worms, which OSX essentially does not have.

By Etern205 on 9/1/2009 11:10:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Newton virus (Troika) isn't really a virus, but a prank-like program that collapse the whole desktop and falls where ever the user moves it to due some notebooks with a build in accelerometer. It's a neat program to install for certain Mac users as wake up call that Macs aren't that all secure.

You can however you can get it for a cheap price of $4.99

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