The Mac Observer

Skip navigational links

You're viewing an article in TMO's historic archive vault. Here, we've preserved the comments and how the site looked along with the article. Use this link to view the article on our current site:
Will Intel Switch Lead to Rise in OS X Exploits?

Will Intel Switch Lead to Rise in OS X Exploits?

by , 4:10 PM EST, January 27th, 2006

While Apple's official position is that Mac OS X will be business as usual when run on Intel processors, security experts interviewed by eWeek's Paul F. Roberts suggest that the shift could actually make the operating system less secure. And that "could result in a steady stream of Mac exploits in years to come," he wrote.

"Attackers have been focused on the [Intel] x86 for over a decade," Oliver Friedrichs, a senior manager at Symantec Corp. Security Response, told the reporter. "Macintosh will have a lot more exposure than when it was on PowerPC." Mr. Friedrichs pointed out that hackers "have access to hundreds of documents and examples of how to exploit common vulnerabilities on x86."

"I think you have a variety of malicious folks who know the Intel chip set and instruction set. Now that Mac OS X runs on that, people can port their malware and other things over to OS X quickly and easily," added David Mackey, director of security intelligence at IBM.

In addition, pointed out analysts contacted by Mr. Roberts, there are more tools available for hacking x86 processors than for compromising PowerPC chips. And with those tools, software vulnerability researcher Lurene Grenier said, development of exploit code for Mac OS X will happen faster.

Mr. Roberts did point out, however, that "OS X is generally a stable operating system." Mark Grimes, an OS X security expert who runs Stateful Labs, told the journalist that Apple is investing in security talent, "and also pushing for stringent Common Criteria certification of OS X so that the operating system can be adopted by government agencies."

Mr. Grimes added, though, that Mac OS X "haxies" that enable users to make small changes to the interface or to applications "are evidence that OS X could be used to spread malicious code, though maybe not self propagating viruses and worms."

To make its operating system more secure, Mr. Friedrichs recommended to Apple: "Technologies that protect against stack based overflows are readily available, and it's not difficult to leverage those and incorporate them into the OS."

Apple declined Mr. Roberts' requests for interviews, saying only that Mac OS X on Intel processors is just as secure as it was on PowerPC chips.

Recent Headlines - Updated May 26th

Wed,3:10 PM
How to Deauthorize All Devices in iTunes 12
Sun,12:13 PM
MGG 554: Sleepy Macs Sometimes Go To Work
Sat,10:30 AM
How to Decide Between a Smartswitch and a Timer for Your Smarthome
Fri,6:47 PM
1987 Apple Promo Video Hints at Hubris of the 1990s
3:29 PM
Blur Premium Privacy Protection Lifetime Subscription: $49.99
2:55 PM
Apple May Finally Be Ready to Reinvigorate the iPad
2:39 PM
Google Study Finds ‘Security Questions’ Next to Useless
1:08 PM
TMO Daily Observations 2015-05-22: Fingerprints to Google and Apple Watch Heartrate Monitoring
11:16 AM
Apple Watch OS Update Reduces Background Heart Rate Monitoring Frequency
10:10 AM
Apple’s App Store Needs Cold Storage
8:30 AM
Apple Watch: Three Tips on Contacting Your Pals
Thu,5:44 PM
Promotional Apple II Video with Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Byte Shop
  • __________
  • Buy Stuff, Support TMO!
  • Podcast: Mac Geek Gab
  • Podcast: Apple Weekly Report
  • TMO on Twitter!