Mac OS X Emerges as New Hacker Challenge

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-11-10
 
 
 

10 Reasons Why Mac OS X Security Could Get Worse


Apple released another major Mac OS X security update Nov. 9. The update, Mac OS X 10.6.2, installs several fixes for "Snow Leopard," including for a problem that logs users out unexpectedly. But it was the security side of the update that may cause the most alarm. According to Apple, more than 40 potential security vulnerabilities were patched in the update.

There are two ways to view the update. On one hand, users can say Apple is doing its best to fix the security issues that arise before malware makers worm their way into Apple computers. On other hand, the news that Apple was forced to patch over 40 security holes might underscore a real problem with the company's security initiatives. It could mean that Mac OS X isn't as secure as Apple wants users to believe. Worst of all, the situation could get worse.

Here's why:

1. Mac OS X isn't ironclad

Although some users might want to believe that Apple's Mac OS X security is above and beyond anything offered elsewhere, it's not necessarily true. Just because hackers haven't yet exploited Mac OS X and caused a major issue, that doesn't mean that the operating system is impenetrable. It just hasn't been tested enough by attackers.

2. It hasn't been tested

Which brings us to that very point. So far, Mac OS X hasn't been threatened nearly as much as Windows. For the most, hackers are realizing that there is more money to be made in Windows than in Mac OS X. It's a simple numbers game. The more people using the operating system, the greater the chances that those users can be exploited. It has worked in the past. And there's little chance that it won't continue to work.

3. More Mac OS X users

At the same time, it's important to note that more users than ever are using Mac OS X. Apple is enjoying unparalleled success. With each new update to its hardware, more users are switching to the operating system. Eventually, hackers will take notice. They will see that Mac OS X is a viable target. And many of those users could be affected without warning.

4. There's a feeling of safety

Mac OS X might not suffer from all the security problems that Microsoft Windows does, but that doesn't mean that it's inherently more secure. And yet, the vast majority of Mac OS X users seem to believe that it is. They don't use security software. They rarely worry about security updates. They simply keep working in Mac OS X without worrying about the consequences. That's the kind of mentality that malicious hackers love to prey on.

Mac OS X Emerges as New Hacker Challenge


5. Where's the security software?

Unfortunately, there are very few security solutions available to Mac OS X users. For the most part, if users are concerned with the security of the operating system, they will need to either dig around themselves to find problems or turn a blind eye. Even those security programs that do exist for Mac OS X users tend to be less than capable. It's unfortunate. And it might be putting Mac OS X users at risk.

6. Apple seems to perpetuate the myth

Perhaps the worst problem with Mac OS X security is Apple itself. The company has very little information on its site about the security of its operating system. It's not even providing security software of its own to supplement the features it built into the operating system. And while I would agree that Mac OS X is inherently more secure than Windows, the degree to which it's more secure is debatable. Apple needs to take a more active tack when it comes to OS security.

7. Attacks are on the rise

A few years ago, the very idea of Mac OS X being affected by security problems was almost unheard of. That isn't true any longer. Today, more attacks than ever are impacting the operating system. So far, they haven't been able to cause widespread damage. But is it only a matter of time before one (or a few) will?

8. Snow Leopard obviously has holes

If nothing else, the recent update proves that Snow Leopard has some holes that need to be patched. Granted, all these holes are now protected, but what about the others that Apple and security vendors have yet to find? If Apple is updating an operating system with over 40 security patches, that should sound an alarm for most users. What other issues are affecting the operating system that we don't know about yet? It's a real concern.

9. Windows is getting more secure

A few years ago, breaking into Windows and wreaking havoc was much easier than it is today. With the release of Windows 7, Microsoft has done a much better job of securing its operating system. It's not perfect, for sure, but it is now more difficult for malicious hackers to make their way into the OS. That might cause some of those hackers to turn their attention to Apple. The more people who attack Mac OS X, the greater the chances of something getting through.

10. Hackers seem to stay ahead

As much as I hate to say it, right now, the security community is still trying to catch up to malicious hackers. Too often, hackers are finding their way into operating systems and we're left wondering how we will keep ourselves safe. The longer the security community lags behind the hackers, the more trouble they will cause. It's only a matter of time before that filters down to Apple users. It's unfortunate, but true.

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