Mac (insecurity): How to secure Macs in business

As Macs make their way into the enterprise, IT needs to address these six security flaws before disaster strikes

Security flaw No. 6: Apple's security is half-baked

The strongest concerns over Mac OS X security have to do with improvements introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) that fall short of what's fully needed. "Nothing in Leopard is completely implemented," says Mogull. "They finished enough to get their marketing bullet point, but not a real strong level of defense," concurs Dai Zovi.

Leopard has a strong foundation on which more enterprise-oriented features should be built, as well as a greater extension of integrity and attack resistance for individual users on their own or in companies. For example, Apple added library randomization to Mac OS X 10.5, which prevents virus writers from finding code at specific places in memory each time. However, unlike with Vista, only a subset of what can be protected is actually protected.

Some suspect that Apple will finish building enterprise-class security in Snow Leopard, the next major Mac OS X, slated for US summer 2009. While Apple is scant on details related to Snow Leopard, it's clear that with the "pause button" pressed, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs put it, security and enterprise support will be two of the big improvements expected. (Better use of multiple cores and processors and a push toward optimized software such as JavaScript and QuickTime will be two of the other pillars.)

Solution: With Snow Leopard a year away, security-conscious enterprise may choose to delay serious Mac deployments until they know precisely what security improvements Apple commits to for that release.

Don't be complacent about Mac security

It's vital that security planning takes place before holes appear, and that the IT staff is ready to handle the differences between the Windows, Unix, and Linux systems they may be accustomed to and what Mac OS X brings with it.

Dai Zovi said, "The biggest danger is a sense of complacency: 'Oh, it's a Mac, we don't need to worry about this.' "

Glenn Fleishman writes the Practical Mac column for the Seattle Times and writes about Wi-Fi and mobile broadband on his blog Wi-Fi Networking News.

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Glenn Fleishman

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