Earlier, Apple made a preview of OS X 10.8 'Mountain Lion' available to developers. One new feature present in the OS (along with a lot of iOS integration) is a security tool called Gatekeeper. However, a quick hands-on with this tool reveals that it is more of a novelty feature than a serious security tool.
Image credit: Apple
Initially I understood that Gatekeeper was an anti-malware tool built into the OS, but a quick look at it reveals that it is little more than a cursory addition to the Quarantine tool. The Quarantine tool in OS X kicks in when you try to run a file downloaded from the Internet, and it asks you to confirm that you do indeed want to run the file.
Gatekeeper adds three more options to Quarantine:
- Anywhere Quarantine works just as before, and as long as the app isn't identified as malware, it'll run when you approve it.
- Mac App Store Any applications not downloaded from the Mac App Store will be blocked from running.
- Mac App Store and identified developers Along with apps from the Mac App Store apps, it will also allow third-party apps that have been signed by an 'identified developer' to run (developers registered with Apple - hey get a certificate to sign the application with, and any tinkering with the code once signed will prevent it from running).
I'm not really that impressed with Gatekeeper, and here's why. Like Quarantine, it only scans a download the once, the first time you try to run it. Unless it is known malware, once you OK it, it'll never be checked again.
In other words, it's really little more than a tool that restricts what the user runs, rather than a security tool that sorts the good wheat from the toxic chaff.
However, given that this is a developer preview of 'Mountain Lion,' there's hope for he technology to get better before the final release.
- Apple unveils OS X 10.8 'Mountain Lion' to developers
- Get Messages for your Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion' system today
- Seven months on: Too much, too soon for a major Mac OS X update?
- Apple's 'Mountain Lion': Another step toward iOS, Mac feature unification
- Say Hello to Mountain Lion (a.k.a. Mac OS 10.8)