Forbes article misses point of Mac attack, becomes prime Macalope/TMO Spin fodder

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    Posted: 20 February 2013 01:20 PM


    Tim Worstall, Contributor at Forbes, has penned an article titled, “Yes, Apple Really Does Have A Serious Problem With Computer Viruses And Malware.” In it, he never mentions that it was a Java security hole that made the attack possible; indeed, he never mentioned Java at all. Instead, he talks in broad generalities, then sums up the problem to the growing popularity of Apple’s platforms—yes, platforms plural. Like a magician, he starts talking about the Mac then slowly combines iOS into his whole analysis:

    As those with memories stretching back a couple of decades will recall the various forms of computer malware, the viruses, trojans and the like, were things that affected Microsoft Windows users. Mac users, those using Apple‘s integrated systems, could just laugh and giggle at those poor fools who were using the wrong equipment. Well, no longer:

    He then quotes from a Reuters article:

    Apple Inc was recently attacked by hackers who infected Macintosh computers of some employees, the company said Tuesday in an unprecedented disclosure describing the widest known cyber attacks targeting Apple computers used by corporations.

    He continues:

    I’m sorry but I do find that amusing, that it was internal Apple computers that got infected. Perhaps I shouldn’t but I do.

    The red flags should be flying already based on those last two sentences. The flags really start flying, though, when he magically weaves iOS into his analysis:

    Now yes, we can say that this is only one example, that it’s been cleaned up already (a patch of the Java vulnerability has already been issued) and so on. But it brings us back to a long running point of mine. Why is it that Apple’s machines weren’t getting attacked? There are two possible explanations. The first is that the system is vastly more secure and doesn’t have enough holes in it for an attack to work. People kept trying but only very occasionally did they succeed as above. The other is that Macs were simply not a large enough part of the overall computing ecosystem for it to be worth targeting them. If it is that second reason then with the growth in popularity of the two Apple architectures the bad guys are going to see that it’s worth trying to create viruses for those architectures: thus we’ll see an increase in them.

    As it happens my own view is that it is partially explanation one but only partially. Yes, I do think that MAC OS and iOS are more secure than Windows was, certainly, quite possibly more secure than it is. What makes me think that Apple has a serious problem about computer malware is that I think that much more of it is to do with explanation two. That the malware authors have only just realised that there are enough Macs and iPhones out there to make them worth attacking. And that they will find (some at least) vulnerabilities to exploit. And that’s what Apple’s problem is: we’re only just at the beginning of the attempts to crack Apple’s computers.

    So Apple’s problem is that malware authors now realize that Macs running OS X (which he calls “MAC OS”—red flag!) and iPhones running iOS are too big a target to ignore? As if these two platforms are one in the same? Doesn’t this moron realize that yesterday’s Mac attack needed Java to succeed, and that Java doesn’t even run on iOS and therefore iPhones couldn’t have even been targeted by said attack?

    He concludes:

    Yes, I’m sure that Apple is more secure than many to most other software systems. But I’m equally certain that the criminals aren’t going to give up given the size of the population they can aim at now. No, I don’t think it will get as bad as it did with Windows for a time: but it could at the very least get very boring and annoying having to fight off such malware attacks on systems that have traditionally been free of them. And the seriousness of Apple’s problem is that they’re not, as yet at least, used to dealing with this particular problem. Quite apart from anything else there isn’t the ecosystem of anti-virus software writers as there is for Windows.

    So criminals won’t give up on “...the size of the population they can aim at now,” meaning, as the author puts it, Mac and iPhone users. What he really means is OS X and iOS users, which would be an even bigger target, were it not two targets: two different operating systems. And one of those can only use curated software. As for how boring and annoying things will get when fighting off malware attacks on systems that have been traditionally free of them, does he not realize that iOS was completely unaffected yesterday?

    That would be like saying Android was exploited, so Samsung has a huge problem, given the volume of smartphones, flat-screen televisions, refrigerators, and microwave ovens they sell.



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