Experts Debate Mac OS x86 Security

Analysts from many major computer and technology security companies claim that shipping Mac OS computers with Intel processors may create a range of new security exploits.

“Attackers have been focused on the (Intel) x86 for over a decade. Macintosh will have a lot more exposure than when it was on PowerPC,” says a respresentative from security and antivirus company, Symantec Corp.

“I think you have a variety of malicious folks who know the Intel chip set and instruction set. Now that Mac OS X runs on that, people can port their malware and other things over to OS X quickly and easily,” added a representative from IBM, David Mackey.


The argument amongst security experts is simply that with a larger group of hackers, the number of exploits increases dramatically, however, the legitimacy of these statements is widely disputed. All of the current viruses are written to exploit security holes in the operating systems, rather than exploit the CPU architecture, meaning the x86-based Windows viruses will not exploit x86-based Mac OS computers.

Apple has dismissed these statements, saying that it will be “business as usual” with Mac OS x86.

“OS X will become more popular as prices drop. I think you have a variety of malicious folks who know the Intel chip set and instruction set. Now that Mac OS X runs on that, people can port their malware and other things over to OS X quickly and easily,” said David Mackey.

Analysts from the processor architecture and security industries say that Intel-based CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) instructions are actually easier for a security auditor to audit than the Motorola RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer). The result of this statement would suggest that Mac OS software developers will have an easier time developing secure software on Intel-based Macs than on Motorola-based Macs.

“With Complex Instruction Set instructions, there are more of them, and they do more for you. It’s just simpler to read and write to CISC systems and get them to do something,” said software vulnerability expert, Lurene Grenier.

Mac OS exploits are not completely unheard of, even on the current PowerPC platform. There are websites on the Internet such as Metasploit who index Mac OS security flaws complete with instructions on how they can be exploited.

Summary

Analysts say the switch from PowerPC to Intel processors could show a range of new security holes in Mac OS software.


Contact the author.
Post your Comments
Please ensure your comment is appropriate before posting.