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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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Security Question for Apple and Windows users
By honestIT on 9/1/2009 2:36:48 PM , Rating: 0
I have two boxes, one Apple and one Windows box

User is a lady in mid 40's just checks emails and surfs the Internet

What is the likely-hood that she will get a worm, malware or virus on the Windows box just surfing? What about the Apple box?

What is the likely-hood of her getting a virus via email on her Windows box? What about the Apple box?

Security through obscurity doesn't matter to the end user. Daily tech readers can claim how MACS are just as unsafe but Windows has so many forms of malware a user just needs to click here or there and their machine is brought to a HALT. Doesn't happen on MACS, and more people are realizing that and going to Apple.

By Alexstarfire on 9/1/2009 2:47:38 PM , Rating: 2
And when/if Macs get big later and she's still on that same computer you think it'll matter then? Yea, that's what I thought. If you have a Windows machine that has pretty much any anti-virus and/or anti-malware program on it that updates even semi-regularly then you'll at least have the same level of protection throughout your purchase.

If Macs make it big and she's stuck on that ancient computer she'll be back buying a new one within a day of a virus coming out because it has little/no protection on it.

Of course if you're assuming that Macs will never make it big..... then yea it'd be better. But you know what they say about assuming, right?

RE: Security Question for Apple and Windows users
By sapiens74 on 9/1/09, Rating: -1
RE: Security Question for Apple and Windows users
By snikt on 9/1/2009 3:18:21 PM , Rating: 3
Your IT dept needs to re-evaluate their Windows boxes or their abilities.

We have over 100 Windows boxes that have been accessible to the Public for 7+ years now and not one of them have been compromised...not one.

By sapiens74 on 9/1/2009 3:48:43 PM , Rating: 2
this is on a network of 40k+

By Alexstarfire on 9/1/2009 7:34:51 PM , Rating: 2
You can't get around user stupidity. That goes for everything, not just PCs, or even computers.

I swear that people need to learn the differences in what they say. SAFE != SECURED. In no way did I imply that PCs were safer. I specifically said they were more protected, meaning more secured.

Do people even go to school anymore?

By sapiens74 on 9/1/2009 9:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
bottom line is an idiot user, which comprises the majority of computer users are hard pressed to mess a MAC up

They can with Windows with very little effort

By Alexstarfire on 9/2/2009 12:41:42 AM , Rating: 2
Very true.

By Bateluer on 9/2/2009 5:47:08 PM , Rating: 2
People still go to school, but they can't get less than a 50% any more.

I wonder how many of the infected PCs are running Windows XP Pre-SP1 or 2?

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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