Report: Apple Turns to Top Critic for Help With Malware Woes
May 14, 2012 4:37 PM
comment(s) - last by
Looks like "PC" isn't the only one to have malware woes.
Kaspersky recently published an analysis indicating that the Cupertino company was ten years behind Microsoft
Things haven't been pretty for Apple, Inc. (
) of late as its seen a number of high-profile security embarassments surrounding its Mac personal computers. Most recently OS X 10.7.2 Lion was caught
dumping passwords in plaintext
, thanks to some sloppy programming by an Apple engineer. Before that, Apple suffered a
(between 1 and 2 percent of Macs -- or
roughly 600,000 machines
were estimated to be infected) and was caught telling its technicians to
lie about another wide-spread piece of malware
, a fake antivirus program
I. Kaspersky Recruited to Remedy Woeful OS X Security
Famed OS X hacker
once told a security blog
, "Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town."
Today the developer -- who Apple recently
gave the boot from its developer program
for revealing it flawed security -- has a softer perspective on the topic, stating to Kaspersky's threat post
It's always been the easiest to exploit and now it's to the point that it's not that easy anymore. OS X has always been way behind on security, but now it's more or less comparable [to Windows]. Once you have ASLR and DEP and some sandboxing, that's all anyone has.
Still that wasn't enough to keep Kaspersky from delivering a scathing perspective on Apple's security, which it estimates to be a
full decade behind Microsoft
In the aftermath of that assessment, Kaspersky's chief technology officer,
Nikolai Grebennikov has been
interview as saying that Apple has approached it desparate for security support. The top security firm reportedly agreed and is in the midst of a likely lucrative assessment of the OS X code-base.
Kaspersky's criticism and Mr. Miller's praise may at first seem oddly divergent commentaries. But in reality much of Apple's recent security flaws have come down to its insistence on redistributing third-party updates, coupled with a handful of careless programming errors. Apple does not allow third-parties like Oracle Corp. (
) the ability to directly patch their Mac OS platforms, such as Java. While Apple views this as a security "feature" it has become more of a nightmare of late, as Macs are being exploited via gaping Java or Flash holes that were long ago patched in Windows.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Grebennikov indicates that much of Kaspersky's early advice to Apple revolves around letting third parties update their own platforms -- or at least
assume a more responsible pace
of mandatory updates. Comments the security chief:
Mac OS is really vulnerable and Apple recently invited us to improve its security. We've begun an analysis of its vulnerabilities, and the malware targeting it.
Our first investigations show Apple doesn't pay enough attention to security. For example, Oracle closed a vulnerability in Java, which was a target for a major botnet several months ago.
Apple blocked Oracle from updating Java on Mac OS, and they perform all the updates themselves. They only released the patch a few weeks ago – two or three months after the Oracle patch. That's far too long.
II. iOS Malware Expected to Soon Become Serious
Kaspersky indicates that Apple was fortunate to seek help when it did. Mr. Grebennikov estimates that malware will soon be targeting Apple's coveted iOS platform, which shares much in the way of security -- or lack thereof -- with OS X. He comments, "Our experience tells us that in the near future, perhaps in a year or so, we will see the first malware targeting iOS."
Thus far a
couple of harmless Trojans and worms
have struck iOS, but have almost exclusively
attacked users of jailbroken iPhones or iPads
. Apple does not care about these infections as it does not consider jailbroken device users to be part of its user base. Jailbreaking, or removing Apple's control over what apps can be run, voids users' warranties.
Kaspersky expects malicious hackers to target Apple's iOS mobile platform.
[Image Source: Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images]
Apple has long maintained an
arrogant air from a marketing perspective
, claiming its machines were impervious to malware or hacking, while portraying machines running Microsoft Windows operating system as "buggy" and "virus prone". The company is surely eager to prevent the public from wising up to the reality that it may actually be well
Microsoft in terms of system security.
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RE: That's Convenient
5/14/2012 9:09:20 PM
Yes, Java, Flash, and other development platforms have provided security holes in the past, but it is important to note that so has to OS. For example the most recent issues with OSX were both on Apples side, taking to long to patch known issues (
and poor programming/deployment practices which resulted in saving passwords as plain text (
I am not a regular Mac user, but I expect that they come out with security updates just like Microsoft. On Windows 7 these are usually to fix small coding errors which could allow a hacker to execute malicious code without going through the normal process. These programming flaws exist in every large program, iOS is no exception.
So yes, up to now the only people finding ways to execute code not approved by Apple are jail breakers (who exploit flaws in the software or OS to gain root access to your iOS device). Kaspersky seems to be of the opinion that it is only a matter of time before hackers start using the same or similar exploits to gain control of your iOS device.
I tend to agree with Kaspersky. It is only a matter of time before Trojan free/paid apps (
which root 1 in 5 devices they are installed on are seen in the wild. It is only a matter of time before web ads start exploiting flaws in the iOS web browser API.
The real mark of a "secure" OS is how the company defends against attacks (iOS and WP7 limiting software installs), how many resources the company puts into finding exploits (for example, Microsoft participates in hacker conventions where they pay $$ for exploits, sometimes even hiring the company/person who finds the most exploits), and how quickly patches for exploits are released.
Yes, Android is like an unlocked house in the middle of the city, you can install any software (without risking even $1) and the source is open so you can easily find week points.
iOS is like a locked house in the middle of the city, but they have no security inside (no anti-virus or advanced security options that I know of). It costs money to get a key to the door ($99 to publish apps), but the odds are that the windows do not have bars.
WP7 is still out in the country side (what 1.4% market share now?). They have locks on the doors ($99 to publish apps, app review like Apple) and from what I have seen bars on the windows (use of choosers and tested modern development platforms like .NET and Silverlight). When/If they move into the city they will be at risk for viruses.
The more important thing to me (between Apple and Microsoft) is how they handle white hat hackers. If Apple does not make friends with the white hats, they are at risk of becoming the next Sony.
shows similarities to Sony's tact, and we all know where that took Sony.
"This is about the Internet. Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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