Feature: Soapbox Musings

Is The Cult of the Mac Still Safe

Author: Robert Weller
Published: April 09, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Has the Macintosh taken it on the chin? Does it no longer benefit from “security through obscurity?”

Judging from media reports it suffered from one of those attacks that the cult that follows it thought was out of the question.

But wait. Cyberhacks are a dime a day. What happened to Apple occurred out in Internet land. Or “the wild” as some call it.

You venture out there and you are taking your computer into our own hands.

It was more than two months ago and no one’s computer has been reported to have crashed. No one has reported his credit card information stolen. No company has been reported to have shut down.

This Trojan is called a “zero-day” attacker. That means it is supposed to do its dirty work before developers find out about it. Well it has been discovered.

If you believe some there is a “botnet" of 600,000 computers out there ready to be exploited by a “botmaster” or “botherder.” So far it hasn’t been enlisted in any attempt to hit a target’s servers with so many requests that it resulted in a denial of service.

What did happen? A Trojan that has been around before was reported to have infected one percent of Macs. That figure came from a company that manufactures anti-virus software. It was never confirmed.

The Trojan, called Flashback, was on some Websites that use Java. A visitor to such sites did not have to do anything to have the Trojan get into the Mac. These are called “drive-by downloads.”

What happened next is blurry. Apple and Adobe did issue updates that resolved the matter for those not infected. Instructions were issued telling how to find out and what to do if the Trojan was found.

Why not just disable Java? Again, the story is unclear. At first glance that would seem to cripple your Web experience. But wait again. Javascript is what you need, and it is a standalone. Java is being retired.

And the premise, that Macs have been invulnerable to attacks, or that because they were a small fry no attempts were made, doesn’t stand.

The impression that Macs need not have anti-virus software at all, may be more precarious. Older Macs are likely to be the ones affected by Flashback.

Continued on the next page

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Article Author: Robert Weller

Journalist for 40 years, working in 30 countries and 11 states. Mostly for AP. Coverage has included Columbine, South Africa, Alaska Pipeline, India Gandhi assassination, wars, disasters, art, PTSD, skiing, Liberia, Uganda et al. …

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