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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: Clearly
By akugami on 9/1/2009 10:54:56 AM , Rating: 0

Apple is the new Microsoft. Even if they got hit with an antitrust lawsuit they would just get a slap on the wrist. Same as Microsoft.

RE: Clearly
By theapparition on 9/1/2009 1:04:13 PM , Rating: 4
How about a combined total of close to 2 billion in fines from the EU.

Is that what you consider a slap on the wrist? All because they dared to include IE in Windows.

RE: Clearly
By akugami on 9/1/2009 3:16:09 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking more in terms of the USA and, no offense, forgot about the EU but the EU is pretty wacky and seem to be fine happy. Not sure I agree with some of the fines because they seemed very borderline, and some of them were on MS and Intel among others.

Let's be honest, getting fined billions for including a web browser in your OS is pretty retarded. Even if we all agree (and it's hard to argue against this) that MS is a monopoly and that monopolies require careful watching.

It's not like Apple hasn't been on the EU watch list either.

But getting back to the USA, you can't argue that considering how damning the evidence against MS was, all they (MS) got was a slap on the wrist. I mean, any small company (or most companies period) would not be able to go to a court, submit fake evidence, get caught and still have relatively minor repercussions.

Apple is also the new MS considering how dominant they are. They are also control happy, manipulative and screwing people left and right. While MS has toned down such practices, Apple has actually gone up.

RE: Clearly
By Lightnix on 9/3/2009 6:56:28 AM , Rating: 2
I have to wonder how the graph in that first link would look if they also included JavaME applications - which the iPhone specifically cannot run.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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