Focus on Apple
Re: Bill Gates on Mac OS X security Feb 02 2007 11:14PM
Sûnnet Beskerming (info beskerming com)
(Combined reply to a couple of posts)

I agree that the claim appears to be related to the current MoAB
project (now completed), but it suggests that Bill hasn't actually
looked at what the MoAB actually produced (versus what they claimed
to want to do). The claim of relative userbase being a reliable
'security by obscurity' measure is bunk. It tends to break down
quite quickly when you look at the relative market penetration and
exploit attempts versus various web server and scripting software
(though PHP is a crowd favourite). The ability to easily automate
attacks also makes it worthwhile for attackers to seek out the
obscure and niche software and platforms. If you can be guaranteed a
million machines globally, then why not own them if you can? Why not
look up the history of the Witty worm for an excellent case study on
how it can be worthwhile aiming for the low percentage systems.

I don't think that Microsoft is several years ahead of Apple when it
comes to security. True, they have had extremely painful reasons why
they have had to spend all the funds on securing their systems, but
Apple have also had some very serious issues in the last several
years. Any time someone claims to have found an OS X virus or worm,
you can't escape coverage of it in the media, while the same can't be
said about Windows (the latest really nasty variants of Haxdoor
barely rate a mention from the media). Sometimes Apple's unstated
policy of 'No Comment' causes them harm, but it also helps prevent
'foot in mouth' disease, which can come back to bite them later.

If you think that Windows is free from the setuid or format string
issues, then you obviously haven't been looking very closely at the
security patches Microsoft have put out in the last 12 months (and
not just what the 2 sentence description says). There are still far
too many format string and input validation problems plaguing
Microsoft's systems, and if the WMF vulnerability had been delayed
for 12 months, then it would be Vista's first remote hole (it did
affect the Betas). The attack on third party software line could be
levelled against the MoAB project, as many of the vulnerabilities
raised were for third party software (VLC, APE, Colloquy, Rumpus,
Transmit, Flip4Mac, OmniWeb, and non-system Apple software such as
iChat and iLife).

I agree that it would be excellent if the security group at Apple
could get extra funding and importance, I just don't think that we
will see a very serious attack against OS X this year, whether that
is due to luck or otherwise. For Microsoft and Vista, well I don't
think that Vista will get enough market penetration over the next 12
months for security vulnerabilities affecting it to reach a critical
mass, unless those same vulnerabilities also affect Windows XP.

I also agree that this quote from Bill is likely to be very damaging
in the future. You just don't tend to see that sort of bald faced
statement from Steve, Linus, Theo, or any of the other OS
figureheads. I just got the feeling from the media coverage that
Bill and Steve Ballmer were getting sick of people asking them 'Well
Apple has already had x,y,z for a number of years, do you feel any
threat?' or questions along those lines.

A more telling extract from the MSNBC interview would be from a
couple of sentences earlier, where he suggests that we all listen to
Allchin for the ultimate truth. Sure, I'll do that:

"In my view, we lost our way,"
"I would buy a Mac if I didn't work for Microsoft"

Okay Jim, I don't work for Microsoft, so I'll go buy a Mac.


Sûnnet Beskerming Pty. Ltd.
Adelaide, Australia

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