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  1. #1

    opus_az's Avatar
    Member Since
    Dec 06, 2006
    Darwin, BSD, open source, and viruses

    I was chatting with a Mac consultant who said something pretty interesting. He said the main reason OS X is so much more immune to viruses and malware is that the core and kernel are open source. So, he says, there's an entire community poking around and finding vunerabilities so Apple can patch them before any exploits are released.

    So, my question is, besides the inherent strengths of a unix-based kernel, how much does open source affect OS X's security?

    (I'm a newb to OS X so maybe I'm not clear on Darwin/BSD and Core/Kernel. If so, feel free to correct me.)
    iMac, MB, MB Air, nano

  2. #2

    xstep's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jun 25, 2005
    On the road
    2011 MBP, i7, 16GB RAM, MBP 2.16Ghz Core Duo, 2GB ram, Dual 867Mhz MDD, 1.75GB ram, ATI 9800 Pro vid
    I found this quote on another thread here. See the second quoted text.

    Some have suggested that having your code open source could cause security problems. I'm sure it can as the bad guys can review the code for problems, but the open source community seems to be very proactive about solving security issues quickly.

    The BSD used by Apple is based on FreeBSD. That group loosely shares its code and findings with the other BSD groups (there are several) and vice versa. The OpenBSD group is all about correctness regarding security. Their implementation is considered the most secure OS available. As I said, these groups share, so in the end Apple has the option to use the knowledge that is out there. Sometimes that is just a technique, and other times it is a known possible exploit.

    There have been some published attempts to crack OS X systems. Most of them have been proof of concept that went no where. Another was a bogus download of MS Office that was not MS Office. And I recall a trojan that got litterally 2 or 3 people. That one makes me wonder if it was real. Ive been expecting a somewhat successful attack for about 2 years now and it hasn't materialized.

    There have been many possible exploits. They have been patched be security updates from Apple. This is an easy process to do by any Mac user with the system privileges.

  3. #3

    mac57's Avatar
    Member Since
    Apr 29, 2006
    St. Somewhere
    iMac 27" 3.4 GHz, 256 GB SSD, 2 TB HDD, 8 GB RAM
    Also, bear in mind that the Unix/FreeBSD/MacOSX/Linux file system model simply makes it harder for virus' to do their dirty deeds. Since the average user's permissions restrict them to making mods only to their own files, even if they could unwittingly unleash a virus on their Mac, all it could do is deep-six their own files, not the Mac itself.

    The above is generally true, and doesn't consider the infamous "rootkit" approach, which will come to Macs sooner or later. The rising popularity of Macs is a double edged sword. As more and more of us see the light, there is a larger target out there for ego-driven hackers to aim at. Imagine the profile that could be achieved in their twisted community if you could become the first person to create something that truly wreaked havoc amongst Mac users.

    The morale of the story is that we are safer than Windows users for now, and the underpinnings of Mac OS X will help keep us that way, but we should not become complacent. Practise smart computing! You may need it someday.
    My Macs: iMac 27" 3.4 GHz, Mac Pro 3.2 GHz, PowerMac G5 Quad 2.5 GHz, G4 Cube with 1.2 GHz Upgrade
    My iStuff: 64GB iPhone 5, 64GB iPad4, 30GB iPod Video, 16GB iPod Touch
    My OS': Mac OS X Lion, Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Mac OS X Tiger, Mac OS 9.2.2, openSUSE 10.3
    I was on the Mac-Forums honor roll for September 2007

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