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…And Again

March 9th, 2006

If you recall, I recently posted on how shallow and uninformed most reporting is when it comes to Mac technical issues, and recent articles have borne out this view. A Swedish Mac enthusiast issued a challenge to see if anyone could hack in to the system from the outside and cause any damage. One user did so within 30 minutes, leading to articles like this one which decried the Mac a security sieve that could be easily attacked. There was a huge flurry of stories and again, the Mac’s reputation as a secure system appeared to be shot down.

But like with the “virus” outbreak, the reports turned out to be a load of bull, with the description “overblown” being an understatement. The articles made it sound like anyone could hack into your Mac via the Internet with ease. It turns out that the Swedish tester allowed people joining the challenge to access via a local access account–essentially, he granted everyone internal access, just as if they were sitting at the computer itself. This is like opening all the doors to your house and then expressing amazement at how easily burglars you invite in can carry off your TV set. What’s more, the challenge was to access a server, which is more vulnerable than a common consumer machine.

So the University of Wisconsin, which originally questioned the veracity of the initial contest, set up their own challenge. They hooked up the same computer, also as a server, to a high-speed Internet connection, and left it there for 38 hours with an open call for people to try to hack it. This time, they did not allow local access, representing a much more realistic environment. There were a huge number of attempts, but no one was successful.

So much for the “Mac is not secure” twaddle. If you think the Mac is an insecure platform because of malware or hacking, please take note that both flurries of reports to that effect were bogus. There are no Mac viruses, malware has been shown possible but does not yet exist (and the proofs of concept were lame to boot), and your Mac is not open to hacking from the outside–unless you work actively to allow people access.

Got that?

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  1. ykw
    March 10th, 2006 at 02:38 | #1

    I don’t think anyone can get into (e.g. access files on the hard disk) a windows xp computer w/o the password to a user name or a file sharing area.

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