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Security experts say poor driver design leaves doors wide open

Two security researchers from Black Hat this week revealed a method in which a MacBook can be broken into and taken control of. In fact, the intrusion method is at such a low level that even firewalls and anti-virus applications can't help. Based on flaws in wireless network driver design, Apple's line of MacBooks -- and MacBook Pros -- allows an attacker to remotely bypass the security of the laptop and the operating system.

Jon Ellch and David Maynor from Black Hat say that drivers for Apple's notebooks are developed not in house, but outside using contracted development companies. Ellch says that often times, these development people are under so much pressure from higher management to get working drivers so that companies can rush our products to market. Under circumstances like this, drivers for devices such as wireless network processors enter "the wild" in an untested state.

However, Mayner said that "we're not picking specifically on Macs here, but if you watch those 'Get a Mac' commercials enough, it eventually makes you want to stab one of those users in the eye with a lit cigarette or something." Mayner cites that many of Apple's commercials claim that Macs don't suffer from the same security vulnerabilities that PCs do but in fact, they do.

The team at Black Hat demonstrated that they could circumvent the Wi-Fi security and OS level security in a MacBook and within just 60 seconds, were able to take complete control of the machine. Black Hat demonstrated the technique through a pre-recorded video to prevent anyone from intercepting the wireless network traffic to deconstruct the attack and release it elsewhere. Black Hat said that it has been in contact with both Apple and Microsoft, because the vulnerability exists on both sides.



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RE: Amen
By Pirks on 8/7/2006 7:16:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think you misunderstand me. I agree that running non-root access for day-to-day activity is a good thing. I disagree though with the implication that encouraging (or even enforcing) this behavior is the sole metric by which you judge system security.
Now you probably misunderstood me - I never said this metric is a sole metric - nope, it's not and yes, there are other important metrics. My argument was that it is important enough that it got such a serious attention from MS with all the initial bad press surrounding introduction of UAP, and the most important - with zillions of old school home users that inherited old "I'm root" ideology from DOS/Win9x/NT/XP times. So while you are right that the limited user functionality is not the sole metric of system security (I've never stated otherwise) the fact that "every home user can be root" idea slipped into NT from the DOS world and was not eradicated until Vista. Countless malware, a lot of bad press and bad reputation was earned as a result (just watch those Mac commercials and tons of stupid users complaining about how their PC was infected).

I'd say this one turned out to be not the most important metric but rather the one that got the most bad press, BOTH when users were suffering from its absence AND when it was first introduced in Vista betas. Now compare this situation with a possible alternative - if MS took Unix as example to follow (as Apple did) and then forced every user to live with the notion that he/she can't be root all the time, and forced ISVs to comply with its software development guides by doing necessary checks and maybe printing warning in Visual Studio, providing ready templates, I mean stuff Apple routinely does with its XCode.

What would have happened then? MS would introduce more secure system earlier, marlware did less damage, it'd be harder to overtake the whole PC... but the transition to NT would be harder for DOS users, who could have flooded support lines with cries for help finding that mysterious System Administrator. So I'm not sure which way is better, I was just saying MS didn't pay attention to that and pays for this now. It could have paid earlier by introducing UAP in 2000 or so.


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