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Risk

1/15/2008
11:52 AM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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A Couple More Things Apple Needs To Do To Become IT (Security) Friendly

As Macworld kicks off, more companies, especially SMBs, are bound to be eyeing the possibility of displacing Microsoft in favor of Apple. And there are plenty of good reasons why: Vista has been a disappointment, and OS X is simply more elegant and easier to use than anything Microsoft has to offer. And if my personal experience with OS X is any indicator, OS X is a lot more stable. But when it comes to security, Apple has some work to do.

As Macworld kicks off, more companies, especially SMBs, are bound to be eyeing the possibility of displacing Microsoft in favor of Apple. And there are plenty of good reasons why: Vista has been a disappointment, and OS X is simply more elegant and easier to use than anything Microsoft has to offer. And if my personal experience with OS X is any indicator, OS X is a lot more stable. But when it comes to security, Apple has some work to do.In his excellent article, What Apple Needs To Do To Become More IT Friendly, John C. Welch outlined nearly a dozen things the champion-of-slick-design needs to do if it's to succeed in gaining business market share. They're good points all -- but Welch forgot one: Apple would need to improve how it approaches security.

That's right. Apple would need to improve how it approaches security.

Here's why I say this:

Scheduled Patch Releases. OS X updates and security patch releases would need to be released on a standard schedule, much as Microsoft has done. It was just handful of years ago when Microsoft would release patches willy-nilly: a couple patches on Monday, another late Friday afternoon, and on it went. This drove IT departments nuts. It was impossible to plan or ready resources to push the patch to their 50, or 5,000 desktops. So it took companies longer to deploy patches. They were less secure as a result. Patch Tuesday has helped to (somewhat) calm that madness. Apple would need to follow suit, if it's to succeed in enterprises of any size.

Develop Better Automated Patch Deployment and Patch Validation Options. Updating patches on 10 to 20 client systems can be a chore. In fact, using the built-in Software Update gets the job done just fine. But manually updating 1,000 endpoints is a story with a frustrating and costly ending. In this highly regulated environment, companies not only have to deploy patches, but they need to be able to prove that the patches have been deployed.

Enterprise-Class Security Software Management. That's right. The firewall built in to OS X, as well as third-party firewalls, anti-malware, anti-spam, and other types of security software, needs better centralized management. While you can manually support 10 MacBook Pros, no one wants to endure the pain, or cost, of manually supporting 1,000.

But we're talking about Apple ... Macs are inherently more secure, you say . . .

No, they're not. At least I don't think so.

And even if they are, that's a moot point in the enterprise. My assumption is that any application and operating system is breakable. And any security professional worth her firewall policies needs to make that assumption when protecting the IT infrastructure.

I think, because of the relatively smaller market share, OS X and Apple software has been targeted less. That's a condition that's likely to change with each new percentage bump upward.

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