Macs: No longer last bastion of invulnerability

Last week, a friend of mine pointed me to an online promotion for some software for the MacBook that I own. It was a suite of 12 security-related programs designed specifically to protect the Mac OS.

Last week, a friend of mine pointed me to an online promotion for some software for the MacBook that I own. It was a suite of 12 security-related programs designed specifically to protect the Mac OS.

I duly went to the site to check out the promotion as I was shopping around for some security software to protect my Mac. There was a time before when many Mac users would not have bothered doing so but today, more and more security breaches are targeting not only Window-based machines but Macs too.

In fact, as far back as 2007, a new form of malware was targeting Mac users, taking advantage of the inclination to watch porn. Intego, a Mac security software company, had issued a warning to Mac users of the OSX.RSPlug.A malware, which it described as a Trojan horse that disguised itself as a video codec that forced any porn video Mac users stumbled upon to play on their system.

More recently, security researcher Graham Cluley of Sophos, blogged about a new way in which the OSX/RSPlug-F Mac Trojan horse is being distributed by hackers through a form of a poisoned HDTV/DTV program called MacCinema. Cluley noted that visiting a Web site that shows all signs of legitimacy can lead users to download Trojan horses, even on an Apple Mac.

And at this year's Black Hat security conference held in Las Vegas, security researcher Dino Dai Zovi revealed a proof-of-concept rootkit that runs on Apple's Mac OS X operating system, proving the fact that all software--regardless Windows or Mac--has flaws.

Like the many misconceptions the public has that the Mac is only good for desktop publishing, Web designers and multimedia programmers, the notion that Macs are invulnerable to virus and malware attacks is totally misstated.

The fact is that the Mac OS is just another piece of software that skilled hackers can exploit, but have not been doing so yet because of the relatively low penetration of Macs in the worldwide market.

And hackers, like any shrewd businessmen, only go into business on a sure bet--that is to exploit a piece of software, in this case, Windows--which they know will likely bring them returns.

It remains to be seen how widespread the exploitation of Mac OS will be, but what's certain is that there is no turning back the clock on the fact that more Macs will be exploited as we move forward, and as Macs gain popularity due to other factors such as the proliferation of the iPhone and iTunes among consumers.

Some experts have said that as the Mac OS begins to grow its market share, Macs will be the next obvious target for hackers.

So, as a Mac user, how does one prepare for such a day?

I think one thing that all of us Mac users can do is to become more aware of the kinds of threats that are going on in the online world today. Many strategies that hackers use to exploit the vulnerabilities first start by using social engineering tactics to fool users into acting without thinking. Knowing how some of these threats work would definitely go a long way to making us aware as to what to avoid.

Next is to always apply our minds and think about what you're installing onto your computer before you do, as some of these malicious software require you to intervene before it becomes active.

Lastly, it wouldn't be a bad idea to start shopping around for some Mac security software and install programs such as antivirus/spyware, firewall, and some basic data encryption into your Mac, to be on the safe side.

If you do have any other ideas or experiences to share, do drop me a comment.

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