Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

Summary: Macs are more vulnerable to a specific flaw than Windows machines, and "enterprise customers should steer clear", according to one security firm.

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Catch 5: As per the previous article, Mac OS X in the corporate or academic environment could leave organisations open to state-sponsored attacks.

Security researchers at the Black Hat conference are cautioning enterprise clients away from adopting Mac OS X machines on large, secure networks.

While Lion may be Apple's most secure operating system to date, researchers from iSec Partners warn that Macs en masse are more vulnerable than Windows to advanced persistent threats (APTs) -- often the weapon of choice for state-sponsored hackers.

(Image via Flickr)

As per The Register's report, iSec bases this on the assumption that a small percentage of users in any business, organisation or government department could be duped into installing malware -- regardless of the operating system they use.

Macs running Apple's flagship operating system, however, are more vulnerable due to Mac OS X Server that port updates to its machines. Authentication used by the server is "inherently insecure", making the infection rate far more likely.

While Mac OS X Server uses Kerberos authentication, it uses a backup authentication method -- which is easy to override. While Macs alone are good at defending themselves, "once you install OS X Server you're toast".

Remember Google and China?

Two years ago, while Windows machines were taken over by an exploitation unpatched at the time, in a massive hacking attack with an alleged China to be behind it, Macs may not have been a better defence.

The proof of concept run was able to collect and copy all the authentication credentials, which then contacts other Macs on the network pretending to be the stolen administrator account, to further collect valuable corporate or governmental data.

Now, granted this could be used against governments and major technology organisations, defence contractors and specialists working in their field.

But universities encompass all of the above -- with academics working with government on policy, defence issues and sensitive matters of state.

Having said that, even I doubt a state-sponsored hacker would attack a mere university. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible.

Mac users are generally well insulated against malware and hacking attacks. Whether the platform of the Black Hat conference has merely highlighted this as simply an issue, or whether this will cause mass controversy with burning cars and hackers burnt at the stake -- I highly doubt.

But it is something universities need to be aware of -- just as government departments and major organisations should take into great consideration.

Topics: Security, Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems

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31 comments
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  • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

    Cue for Apple fanboy nerdrage!

    I find this quite lulzy and accurate.
    Tommy S.
    • Total BS - it's all a lie, nothing more

      @Tommy S.
      these hackers are trying to scare people away from Macs in the enterprise because they'd be out of business since you can't hack them!

      But if they can scare users into sticking with Windows they'll have all the corporate info they'll ever want.

      This is just teh black hat community running scared! :)
      William Farrell
      • RE: BS - it's all a lie, nothing more - Ha Ha Ha...

        @William Farrell

        Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ....

        Thanks for the laughter, you made my day!

        Good one!
        WinTard
      • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

        @William Farrell Thanks for proving my point! :D
        Tommy S.
      • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

        @William Farrell
        LOL
        LoverockDavidson
      • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

        @William Farrell
        hahahaha
        AdnanPirota
      • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

        @William Farrell LOL! What are you smoking you deluded idiot. OS X and Safari are easier to hack than Windows and IE. This has been proven time and time again at hacking conventions like Pwn2Own. In fact, Apple's own security guru and hacking expert Charlie Miller has flat out stated on numerous occasions, that Windows is much more secure than OS X.

        The reason OS X hasn't dealt with much malware, is simply because it's market share is so small, that malware creators don't even bother.
        JoeHTH
      • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

        @William Farrell:

        Wow! Nice going. You appear to have struck a serious nerve and every two-bit script kiddie is coming out of the woodwork to mock you and shout you down. People don't like to hear the truth.
        Andre Richards
      • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

        @William Farrell
        That's not entirely true. I can crack a Mac in less than 3 minutes with no software or tools if I can touch the keyboard.
        Nate_K
  • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

    oooops they did it again :)
    AdnanPirota
  • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

    Impossible, I was told that Macs just work, and to get a Mac and be done with it, and even the commercials mislead me to believe that these things just don't happen with a Mac.
    LoverockDavidson
  • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

    <i>"Having said that, even I doubt a state-sponsored hacker would attack a mere university."</i>

    Why? Universities seem like an obvious target for state sponsored hacking for all of the reasons you listed and more.

    I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it's already happened.
    Rich Miles
    • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

      @Rich Miles
      Same here.
      Looks like a good spot for a test run at the least...
      :|
      rhonin
    • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

      @Rich Miles Sarcasm clearly doesn't show up in my posts. I was missing the #sarcasm tag. :)
      zwhittaker
    • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

      @Rich Miles
      Apparently Zack's isn't really aware that a LOT of U.S. university personnel, particularly in physics, engineering, materials sciences, and Middle Eastern Studies departments are involved in sensitive government-related work. (The latter may be acting as advisors to government agencies and have access to politically sensitive inormation.) Due to the "spread the wealth" nature of university research funding, although the [b][i]main[/i][/b] grant recipient most likely will be with a well-known institution such as Harvard, they routinely have professors at lesser-known institutions as co-researchers.
      Rick_R
      • Clearly he's not aware of it

        @Rick_R

        Since he stated it in the blog... Sarcasm is difficult to pick up in written form but it was definitely there. Although I don't see this as a victory for Windows either, just something that people should be aware of. Don't assume anything is safe as far as I'm concerned.
        LiquidLearner
      • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

        @LiquidLearner Windows is somewhat Battle Hardened, Microsoft Learned a Lot of Hard Lessons!

        Is this a victory for them? Yes, a small one but a victory nonetheless.
        slickjim
  • Filed under ...

    Filed under, "Blah, blah, Mac" or "Blah, blah, Apple".

    Blogger needs hits, writes a "Blah, blah, Mac" story.

    End of story.
    jaypeg
    • Message has been deleted.

      jacjar1
    • RE: Black Hat: 'Macs in the enterprise; steer clear'

      @jaypeg Okay, I have a new Macbook Air and umm, so does Zack so if you're taking his post as a shot at Apple you would be wrong because he likes his Air...

      As for me, I like the Air and Lion but I am not naive enough to think this is just more propaganda.
      slickjim