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10/14/2015
05:00 PM
Sara Peters
Sara Peters
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The State of Apple Security

A small market share and a trusted development environment protected Apple a long time, but will that last? Plus, EXCLUSIVE: more data on who's behind XCodeGhost.
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For years, Apple users felt snug (and smug) in the knowledge that a smaller market share made Apple operating systems a less tempting attack target and that Apple's closed development environment succeeded in keeping the App Store free of malicious Mac and iOS apps. Yet, recent events suggest that Apple users might no longer be able to rely on those protections.

The popularity of iOS -- even in the enterprise -- has made attackers more interested in cracking into Apple's locked-down development environment. They're starting to make a dent: the proof is in recent events, like XCodeGhost -- which snuck Trojanized iOS apps into the official App Store -- and proof-of-concept exploits that allow unsigned code to run on OS X. Research released today by Bit9 + Carbon Black Threat Research found that five times more OS X malware appeared in 2015 than during the previous five years combined.

After years of getting away with low standards, Apple security vendors might not be ready with products that can handle this new threat landscape.

Read on for DarkReading's take on the state of Apple security. Plus, in a DarkReading exclusive, researchers at ThreatBook Labs provide more information about the creators of XCodeGhost and explain that while the authors may have tweeted a public apology about their actions, their intentions weren't so innocent.

 

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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funkdm2
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funkdm2,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/23/2015 | 8:02:34 AM
Re: An illusion
I would hold that most Apple users use Apple products because: 1) they are cool (55%), 2) they are easy (45%), 3) they are less vulnerable ( <1%); based on completely non-scientific survey.
sixscrews
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sixscrews,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2015 | 5:46:21 AM
Hiding in the weeds
I own a farm in Wisconsin's Driftless Area. There are many ground nesting birds that arrive in the spring, build a nest in plain sight, raise a clutch of nestlings and spend the rest of the summer living off the land. Their survival rate must be over 50% or they would have disappeared long ago.

OK - some of the nests get hit but mesopredators - skunks, raccoons, 'possums and feral cats. And then there's the big, bad, human predator. I'm an accidental predator as some nests get run over by my equipment as I work the farm. But the continued existence of these ground nesters is a testimony to the low success rate of these predators.

Apple has used the same model - as cited by another writer here as 'an unlocked barn in a field.'

OK - that works provided you aren't beating your breast or singing all day long about your safe nest/barn.

Fine by me for Apple OS, but IOS is another story - it's all over the place and vulns have the potential to drill all the way into the core of the Enterprise.

Other points this slideshow raised was the seeming amateur nature of Apple malware attacks. This, again, won't last long. BSD documentation readily available as well as open source listing of the OS itself. Apple OS and BSD aren't the same thing, but vulns in BSD are sure to be present in Apple OS, and, to a certain extent, in IOS.

It's only a matter of time before the small snowball turns into an avalanche.

Funny thing, people have been predicting this for years - and it's not happened - yet. Maybe it's getting worse and maybe it's growing exponentially as one researcher said - but I don't see it - yet.

Still, as the climate changes and grasses adapt, becoming less of a hiding place, these ground nesters are some of the most vulnerable of birds - and Apple must see this, too.

I just hope they can deal with the changes before they, too, disappear.

For all the annoying corporate behavior of Apple, their offerings are inspirational and an excellent alternative to the competition, forcing it to deal with complacence and slow development cycles. It would be a shame if they got eaten by a feral cat.
makemyassignments.com
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makemyassignments.com,
User Rank: Strategist
10/26/2015 | 7:03:35 AM
An illusion
While reviewig the post, I would like to agree with this point that it is a truth that almost all of the Apple users purchase Apple products becuase they are less vulnerable to virus attacks.. But yes the market for Apple is minimal in comparison to that of android, so I completely agree with the post. 

Great work

 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/21/2015 | 7:13:44 PM
Re: Good Analogy
Thanks for highlighting this, Ryan.  Apple fanbois and fangrrls often insist that Apple is more secure, but largely that is due to market share (at least, in the desktop/laptop world) -- and that gap is not as wide as it used to be.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2015 | 8:58:09 PM
iOS/Mac
It's worth pointing out that iOS and Mac were found, collectively, to have by far the most discovered vulnerabilities for the year before.

Strangely enough, however, even though Android technically has far fewer vulnerabilites discovered for it than iOS does, Android suffers almost all mobile attacks because those vulnerabilities are far easier to exploit.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2015 | 11:54:01 AM
Good Analogy
I heard this anology in an article involving hacking. Apple(Mac) is a barn in the middle of nowhere with no locks on the doors or bars on the windows. While Windows is in a heavily populated city with security cameras, locks, bars, etc. This analogy articulates the landscape in terms of why Apple (Mac) is less sought after in terms of exploiting.  Why there are less safeguards present for Apple(Mac) but so many need to be present for Microsoft (Windows).

As we are seeing more and more however it seems like malware and exploits are being leveraged against the Apple(Mac) environments. If we want to get as ahead of this as we can we need to hold Apple accountable. It is not forgiveable to allow a vulnerability to go unpatched for a whole year.
femtobeam
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femtobeam,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/15/2015 | 1:33:07 PM
Excellent Article on Apple Security
This is an excellent article on Apple Security! Thank you Sarah.
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