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Os X security vs. Windows Vista

© May 2019 Anthony Lawrence

weblog.infoworld.com/securityadviser/archives/2006/03/is_windows_vist.html (link dead, sorry) Is Windows Vista's user security elevation better than Mac OS X's? asks the question (and then basically refuses to discuss it).

It is a ridiculous question to start with: Windows Vista doesn't exist except in beta, so the supposed security advantage Vista has may evaporate as Microsoft bends to reality.

The "advantage" touted here involves privilege escalation. When either OS X or Vista needs to do system level tasks, they ask for an administrator password. OS X stores that power (not the password, just the increased privileges) for a small period of time after asking. Apparently current Windows Vista does not.

I don't see this as the InfoWorld author does. First, I think I'd be very annoyed with Windows Vista if it queried me for a password over and over again while I was installing some software. That would get old real fast, and if this truly is how it works, I guarantee Microsoft will be changing that very soon. More to the point is that the moment you give an admin password, you are running some risk, so I think any "security" discussion that starts at this point (admin password given) is inherently silly.

More interesting was a link I noticed in a sidebar: Mac OS X hacked under 30 minutes. That's interesting, but I have to wonder about the apparent confict of the hacker's claim that he used "unpublished exploits -- of which there are a lot for Mac OS X". If they are "unpublished", then how would he know about them unless he invented them himself? OK, maybe these exploits are only available at secret hacker websites, but that isn't really "unpublished", is it? If someone is distributing such information, no matter how restrictively, it will "get out" and it will be fixed.

Also, these reports never really tell us much. Was there a firewall ahead of this box? Why on earth would any sane person set this up so users could add their own accounts? From rm my Mac!, the web page of the hacked person:

I set up an LDAP server and linked it to the Macs naming and
authentication services, to let people add their own account to
this machine. That way, they will all be able to enjoy the beauty
of Mac OS X Tiger. And, of course, get a better chance of rm'ing

The story says the machine was hacked, but it seems to be still running. There's some argument at the site itself whether it was hacked at all, if it was whether or not it was patched up to date, and so on. Who knows? I sure don't..

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

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Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition

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Mon Mar 6 15:44:20 2006: 1740   bruceg2004

I wondered the same thing about the "unpublished" - how would he know? Anyway, this machine was also more open to the world. Your typical user is, hopefully, not going to have port 80 open, or other ports to the world. As long as you run a firewall, and don't open up any ports, you are pretty much safe in OS X. I am yet to put an OS X machine on the Internet, so I do not have much experience with that. I tend to use linux as a server machine, and OS X for the desktop/development. I run my own web server locally on my PowerBook, and test my PHP from there, and then upload it to my linux box when it has matured enough.

I would like to see more on this "unpublished" claim. Does Apple really have so many security bugs that have been fixed by other vendors' Unix versions for years? This is going to get interesting. I hope Apple jumps on this quickly - it is a good time for them to shine, and patch things up.

- Bruce


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