Posted by: David Harley | August 4, 2010

Virginia Plainspeaking

I apologise for the title, but since my friend Randy Abrams just directed me to a Lumension blog post called Yes Virginia, Mac’s Can Get Viruses, and he recently posted a blog at ESET called You’re So Vain, how could I resist another 70s music reference?

However, the Lumension blog has nothing to do with Roxy Music and everything to do with a growing mistrust of Apple’s “Hear no evil” marketing stance. “Evil” being any suggestion that its security model is less than ironclad.

Paul Henry points out that he is far from being an Apple basher, but actually likes and uses an impressive collection of Apple products. Actually, I like Macs (etc) too (though I make less regular use of them than he seems to, due to the nature of my work), but that never saved me from that particular accusation. Still, he makes points about market share and vulnerabilities worth considering, and I absolutely agree that “…placing your Windows OS and applications in a virtual environment on top of the Mac OS is not a substitute for good Windows security…” (Does anyone really think that it is???)

I suspect that his message will get less attention than it deserves because he refers to viruses rather than malware: the proportion of genuinely viral Mac malware is very small (the same applies to Windows nowadays) and hardly any works under OS X. And I still think that while the risk from malware that takes hold through an OS or application vulnerability should not be dismissed (look at the impact of the Windows .LNK vulnerability!), Mac users are still more at risk from malware introduced by social engineering. People are the vulnerability that never goes away, and the most persistent (even when not intentionally malevolent) of Persistent Threats, Advanced or not.

Which, I suppose, has something to do with the continuing stressing of the psychosocial element in Apple ownership and evangelism: but that’s a thought I’ll have to save for another time.

David Harley CITP FBCS CISSP
Mac Virus Administrator

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