Shattering the Mac OS X ‘security through obscurity’ myth

“The real reason no viruses exist for Mac OS X has little to do with its low market share… but rather its near-impenetrability,” many of David Zeiler’s readers pointed out in a barrage of critical email missives responding to Zeiler’s inclusion of a quote from an anti-virus software firm’s consultant. The quote intimated that Mac OS X has no more inherent security than Windows.

Zeiler reports, “Though many amateurs may be looking for, and finding, holes in Windows, the FreeBSD Unix code that forms the foundation of OS X has been prodded by legions of expert programmers for 30 years. Though a few hardy souls use the Unix offshoot Linux on PCs built for Windows — they usually wipe Windows off the hard drive — Unix typically is used in mission-critical roles, powering high-end work stations and file servers.”

“And, as mentioned earlier, crackers prefer hitting targets that will cause maximum disruption. ‘Many orders of magnitude more people look over the source code for OS X and the related BSDs than have access to Windows source code,’ said John Klos, a developer of NetBSD, a flavor of Unix closely related to OS X,” Zeiler reports.

“Thus, many of the obvious holes in OS X were closed years ago. That, some suggested, actually makes OS X a more attractive target. ‘If I were a fame-driven cracker with solid technical skills, cracking a BSD-based system would be the fastest way to show off my capabilities,’ said Rich Morin, a programmer and consultant based in San Bruno, Calif. ‘My suspicion, therefore, is that many crackers have tried this challenge and failed,’ Morin added. Still, he cautioned ‘nobody has any way to know for sure,'” Zeiler reports.

Full (long) article here.

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  1. This article should be copied and emailed to journalist out there who says Macs are more secure by their marketshare. This tells it like it really is, in detail. I’ve personally been quite offended by everyone’s “defense” of Microsoft by saying it’s just a marketshare thing. C’mon everyone, start cutting and pasting, and let’s get the facts out there!

  2. Agreed. Virii would be on WIndows even if it had 20% market against 80% of other combined.

    It is the only dumb security-lacking OS that HELPS virii to spread and break havoc on system behind the back of the users.
    I define Windows a traitor-OS : it works against me – the user – and it is a constant threat that requires constant watching. It is ready to stab your back at any moment.

    Linux, OS X, Unix (BSD especially) are allied-OSes. They watch your back and warn you when things are not kosher. They are faithfull lieutenants obeying orders always asking for confirmation prior to execute orders.

    Microsoft executives defined the internet an hostile environment. It is, especially when you OS betrayes you at first occasion.
    Windows users should apply the only firewall to give them true security: BURN the Windows CD and install Linux or get to OS X already!

    Stop infesting the internet with your pests.

  3. I am looking forward to the next worm attack. Gives me a chance to sit back and laugh with satisfaction knowing that all those Mac bashing jerks are once again living in hell! LOL!

    Its the true PAYBACK we Mac users have against the ignorant, arrogant misguided idiocy we are forced to endure at the hands of Wintel trolls and moronic computer industry journalists day in and day out.

    What the article says is so true!

    Since vorus writers are looking for the ultimate “HEY LOOK AT ME!” accomplishment, the cracking of an OS that has remained unbreached for so long would provide the ULTIMATE BRAGGING RIGHTS, but where are those attacks???

    Nowhere to be found.

    You Wintel trolls needs to find something more credible to argue with than this pathetic market share excuse.

    P.S. Apple’s installed base constitutes about 11% of all PCs worldwide.

    This 3% CRAP is nothing more than that…CRAP!

  4. Naawww… I go with “Gates’ Power Trip” theory. Gates is so driven by power and control (see VirtualPC buy out) that his entire purpose for developing Windows was to gain unrestricted access to as many computers as possible. From mom and pop PC’s to see if mom is designing a better can opener in her basement that Gates can steal the patent on, to getting (and selling?) info from governments.

    But, to do this, his OS needs to be loaded with millions of “backdoors”. He uses these for as long as he can until the public awareness of it, then he sloooowly makes a patch that closes one backdoor, but creates another more subtle one. By design, this keeps all of the computers using his OS constantly open to his inspection.

    How did I reach this conclusion? It is either incredibly nieve to leave all of the security wide open on an OS, only to be closed bit-by-bit, or it was intentional. No group of a thousand reasonably intelligent programmers could design such a vulnerable system. It never amazes me how everything Microsoft introduces as “new” has some sort of new vulnerability.

    After 70,000 virii, even if the staff at Microsoft didn’t learn a thing, that 70,000 fewer holes SHOULD slow down the frequency of virus attacks. It’s NOT. It simply looks like someone at home is constantly holding the backdoor wide open regardless of 70,000 “fixes” to keep it closed.

    And, more baffling to me are the consumers…

    Even after 70,000 recall notices, you car still has 2 things go wrong with it each week due to a “design flaw”, would you want to keep it, especially if your neighbor’s car hasn’t seen the shop once since he bought it 4 years ago.?

    �There�s a sucker born every minute, but none of them ever die�, Joseph Bessimer (aka �Paper Collar Joe�)

    …and they just keep buying Windows.

  5. Quote:

    I am looking forward to the next worm attack. Gives me a chance to sit back and laugh with satisfaction knowing that all those Mac bashing jerks are once again living in hell! LOL!

    Its the true PAYBACK we Mac users have against the ignorant, arrogant misguided idiocy we are forced to endure at the hands of Wintel trolls and moronic computer industry journalists day in and day out.

    what an ATTITUDE!!

    while i enjoy knowing that my Mac if fairly secure, i Do Not Gloat over the fact that Windows user’s have so many virus attacks….

    but, you would think some would consider switching over to Mac’s to avoid such things……

    my 2 cents

  6. MJG: and not one yet on OS X.
    Look for Windows virii per year of release. You’ll also see that visibility and market share has nothing to do.
    Windows started to breed virii the very first day it was released.

  7. “what an ATTITUDE!!

    while i enjoy knowing that my Mac if fairly secure, i Do Not Gloat over the fact that Windows user’s have so many virus attacks….”

    I certainly do!

    The majority of them spend far too much time on forums like this, spreading misinformation and downright BS about the Mac platform, so I very much feel that they reap as they have sewn and deserve everything they get.

    They can lie and BS all they want about the reality of OS X security and the reasons for the lack of virus and worm infections, but the never ending attacks on their precious Windows OS proves the true reality.

    Can’t think of a better claim to fame for a virus writer than to be the first cracker in 30 years to launch a successful attack on a UNIX based OS, yet the continuing lack of such an attack proves how hard it really is to pull it off.

    My attitude will remain as long as Apple and the Macintosh continue to be bashed by the ignorant Wintel using public and the press that backs them up.

  8. As a longtime MacUser, and advocate of the platform, the amount of misinformation in the mainstream media – concerning viruses and their so-called reasons for being – alarms me!

    M$ continues to reap the benefits of an insecure OS and watching my .mac inbox fill with Sobig.F attachments – culled from Wintel-owning friends – only compounds my frustration!

    I have no argument with anyone who wants to use OS ‘whatever’, but lets educate people so that they can make an informed decision!

  9. Not gloat over Windows’ virus woes?

    If a clown trips and falls, either intentionally or not, it’s still funny to watch.

    …and when OS X gets a virus, I will accept their laughter 100%. But until that day, I will continue to laugh, not just at MS but at the users, too. They are constantly getting beat up by MS problems and weaknesses, but still ignore better alternatives. It’s no secret that Macs exist, and if they want to stay with MS, then they are knowingly entering into the well-publicized world of digital headaches. And every time these clowns trip over a Windows pot hole, I will laugh.

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