Posted by: David Harley | January 9, 2010

Macs and Misinformation Security

Tom Kelchner, of Sunbelt, blogged yesterday on the issue of malware naming raised by Infosecurity, in an article called “Why don’t AV vendors name malcode consistently.”

I’ve just addressed that issue at some length at ESET, so I won’t go over it again here. However, I can’t help but notice that there’s another example of of the media having a swipe at the anti-malware industry at Information Week: “In their respective predictions for 2010, computer security companies … said that they foresaw more attacks being directed at Macs and other Apple devices this year.

To some extent, such predictions represent wishful thinking.”

We’re accused time and time again by Mac fans of being Mac haters and stirring up hype. Well, I can’t say that we’re not interested in selling product, even those of us who don’t work in sales/marketing etc, but I, for one, get tired of this second cousin to “the AV companies write all the viruses.” All of which I’ve been hearing for nearly 20 years, long before I actually joined the anti-malware industry.

(1) I neither love nor hate Macs (or any other form of computer). I may be a geek, but I’m not that sad. As a matter of fact, I’ve used both Macs and PCs (and a good many other platforms) for most of my time in computing. Heck, I’ve written whole books on Macs (typing on them, that is: I haven’t written a whole book about Macs, though I’ve contributed chapters to one). And I have a lot of flying time in Mac support. In fact, I drifted into a lot of what I do now on the strength of having been an independent AV tester specializing in Mac products.

(2)  There is a sound commercial reason why most AV companies haven’t got much involved with the Mac market. Consumer-wise, the market has been near-saturated, though there is more interest in that sector now in realistic risk assessment, and less assuming that Macs are invulnerable. Corporate-wise, there are more variables. However, as someone who doesn’t have to sell boxes, my interest is quite different. Mac users have never been immune to attack (though the early years of OS X were pretty sparse in terms of malicious code), and I’ve made that point many times. And now, there is a lot more malicious code. I don’t rejoice in that fact: it simply is a fact. And I don’t expect to see the same volumes of Mac malware that we now see in Windows, but that doesn’t mean there is no problem. And my assessment of the situation remains, as it always was, on my perception of the current threat landscape, not on which organization pays me.

I’ll return to this theme sooner rather than later, though not necessarily here: I’m involved with some serious research on the topic right now.

David Harley FBCS CITP CISSP
Mac Virus
Small Blue-Green World
Chief Operations Officer, AVIEN

Also blogging at:
http://avien.net/blog/
http://smallbluegreenblog.wordpress.com/
http://blogs.securiteam.com
http://blog.isc2.org/
http://dharley.wordpress.com

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