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Windows vs Mac Security 513

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lauchded-into-a-fit-of-rage dept.
sdhorne writes "There is a good technical discussion over at InfoWorld on the merits of launchd and what is lacking in a comparable Windows secure solution. It is a throw back to the UNIX vs Windows security discussion that has been hashed out for many years." From the article: "it always traces back to Microsoft's untenable policy of maintaining gaps in Windows security to avoid competing with 3rd party vendors and certified partners. Apple's taking a different approach: What users need is in the box: Anti-virus, anti-spam, encryption, image backup and restore, offsite safe storage through .Mac, and launchd. Pretty soon any debate with Microsoft over security can be ended in one round when Apple stands up, says 'launchd', and sits back down."
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Windows vs Mac Security

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  • Well written, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:29PM (#15963890)
    Pretty soon any debate with Microsoft over security can be ended in one round when Apple stands up, says 'launchd', and sits back down."

    It seemed pretty wello written. That said, I which he would have said a little more about launchd, at least enough to explain why it gives OSX an advantage. It would have also been nice to have had some kind of side-by side comparing Windows and OSX, like how the windows System pseudo-user trumps the admin user, and how there is not way to trump the OSX root user.

    Why this can't happen under OS X:

    I don't know if I'd go that far. OSX isn't 100% immune - it just has more common sense.

    • Re:Well written, but (Score:5, Informative)

      by alps (673371) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:36PM (#15963938)
      • Re:Well written, but (Score:5, Informative)

        by macshome (818789) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:03PM (#15964148) Homepage
        Pimping myself here a bit, but our article on launchd [afp548.com] might be of more help to sysadmins. It later formed the basis for the wikipedia article and has thrilling Jordan Hubbard comments to boot!
        • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:37PM (#15964886) Homepage

          From your article:

          First of all launchd replaced init and xinetd with one process. This is a bit scary as we now basically have init listening in a bunch of different ways for something to tell it to start a job. The security implications of this aren't really known yet with launchd being as young as it is.

          Secondly, and in the same vein, launchd is process 1 and it has the potential to take down the whole system. I've already seen unconfirmed reports of a ssh scan on a network causing launchd to freak out and make systems inaccessible. Having at least some sort of resource limit set on jobs might help here.

          I guess I'm struggling to see how yet another way to launch things is a revolution in security, given that it's a brand new (and therefore untested) codebase and already has reports of it "freaking out".

          The default in Windows is now to have no open ports as well due to the Firewall, so for any up to date installation of Windows the primary ways crap gets in is via browser exploits and malware. I am not seeing anything that Apple does fundamentally different here - Safari has already had several serious security problems, some of them near identical re-runs of problems Microsoft had before (eg help exploits). Malware is just a massively hard problem that nobody is really attacking right now, except maybe Microsoft with Vista, and there's certainly nothing in MacOS that would make it hard to write malware. Indeed there is very simple example code showing how to dump secure form information from Safari and you know how much marketeers would love that.

          A lot of the points made in TFA aren't valid either, they are apparently the result of an extreme lack of thought or knowledge:

          • The purpose of most of the DLLs in SYSTEM32 is documented, just look at the summary tab in Explorer, the problem is that with any complex operating system it's trivial to make up fake names that sound plausible. So it doesn't help as much as you might think. 3rd parties are "duty bound" to produce man pages? Please, how ridiculous. You could argue the same for Linux yet people routinely write new programs without man pages.

          • Windows requires users to use Administrator to install software? No, buggy software requires that. Historically a few Mac programs have had the same requirements ... iTunes springs to mind. Anyway, the Apple solution to buggy software requiring elevated privileges is "you can't run that software" - not very helpful if you need it.

          • "Microsoft made it easy for commercial applications to refuse a debugger's attempt to attach to a process or thread" ... no they didn't, there is no API to prevent yourself from being debugged. This is a total fantasy. Why should I believe this guy at all, when he is talking such nonsense? There are various tricks you can use to detect a debugger being attached but none of these are reliable and none have OS support. If you detect a debugger you cannot force it to detach, the best you can do is stop the program and put up a message box. I think he has seen these messages from copy protection software and assumed it's a flaw in Windows. Not so.

          • "Malicious code or data can be concealed in NTFS files' secondary streams. These are similar to HFS forks, but so few would think to look at these" ... a feature that OS X has as well.

          • "OS X's nearest equivalent to the Registry is Netinfo, but this requires authentication for modification. In later releases of OS X, it is fairly sparse" ... no it isn't, the "equivalent" is a mish-mash of Netinfo, XML plist files dotted around the filing system, UNIX style config files and proprietary datastores. I fail to see how this is an improvement.

          I could go on, most of these points are either wrong or very biased. The article seems worthless as a serious security analysis. I suggest the author go research exactly what modern malware does and how it works.

          • Re:Well written, but (Score:5, Interesting)

            by skiflyer (716312) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @05:23PM (#15965642)
            Ok, I agree with most of your post, but ...

            The purpose of most of the DLLs in SYSTEM32 is documented, just look at the summary tab in Explorer, the problem is that with any complex operating system it's trivial to make up fake names that sound plausible

            I just looked at the summary tab on a dozen random DLLs in my system32 directory (most from microsoft, some from 3rd parties), and there was no information in any of them. Why can't 3rd parties use a different location than MS... at least that would help a little (would help me anyway, if not the actual problem being discussed)

            Windows requires users to use Administrator to install software? No, buggy software requires that. Historically a few Mac programs have had the same requirements ... iTunes springs to mind. Anyway, the Apple solution to buggy software requiring elevated privileges is "you can't run that software" - not very helpful if you need it.

            "buggy" software? I think you mean to say legacy OR poorly coded... this is one of those side effects that windows carries from version to version (like the registry) because MS refuses to leave customers high and dry for old software. Back in the old days this was the right way to do things, store configs in programdirectory/conf... we didn't have an appdata directory like we do now. Same with registry hives, they weren't setup in the same way they are now where certain users could do certain things. Calling it buggy implies the software is behaving contrary to design, it's not, it's just that the target has moved and the software hasn't all moved with it.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ThePhilips (752041)

              Why can't 3rd parties use a different location than MS... at least that would help a little (would help me anyway, if not the actual problem being discussed)

              Because some DLLs are loaded in context of other applications. For example hooks: global keyboard shortcuts, creation of processes, creation of windows. This requirement from from M$ itself - so inevitably all the crap is landing in %SysDir%. Also, dynamic linker on M$Windows look for DLLs exclusively by %PATH% - and %WinDir%/%SysDir% are always the

          • by Sunrun (553558) <drew.kalbrener@g ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @05:41PM (#15965795) Homepage
            - Windows requires users to use Administrator to install software? No, buggy software requires that. Historically a few Mac programs have had the same requirements ... iTunes springs to mind. Anyway, the Apple solution to buggy software requiring elevated privileges is "you can't run that software" - not very helpful if you need it.

            From TFA:
            "- Windows requires that users log in with administrative privileges to install software, which causes many to use privileged accounts for day-to-day usage." [emphasis mine]

            First, administrative privilege != the Administrator account.

            Secondly, yes, Windows does in fact require admin privs to install most software. Try this some time... Start with a fresh WinXP install. Immediately after setup, create an account with only User privilege and log in with it. Then, try to install all the software you'd normally install (anti-virus/spyware-checker/firewall, ANY productivity software (MS-Office, OpenOffice.org)) and see just how far you get. I'll save you the time: you can't. This is exactly the reason that most users run under an account with membership in the Administrators group for every-day tasks -- they're lazy and don't want to be bothered by being constantly denied access to this function or that resource because the account they're using isn't an Admin. By the way, this goes double for people whose job is Windows Administrator, but not just because they're lazy.. Because they're arrogant in addition to being lazy. [And before you label me a whiner, I'll say that it takes a Windows Admin to know a Windows Admin.]

            I further defy you to find a single piece of software for MacOS X that doesn't require Admin privs to install.

            I conclude that you're missing the point. A system requiring privilege to install ANY software will be inherently less prone to malware since it requires a brain to be sitting in front of the screen having to make a decision based essentially on whether or not they did anything to provoke such a request from the OS. It makes sense in a business environment where you don't want users installing just anything, and it makes sense in a home environment where you don't want your kids installing just anything -- especially when you don't want it installed by accident, which is (or should be) always. I would also point out that there's a difference between "want" and "need". In the above cases (business and home) "need" becomes "demonstrated need".

            /rant
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by macshome (818789)

            I guess I'm struggling to see how yet another way to launch things is a revolution in security, given that it's a brand new (and therefore untested) codebase and already has reports of it "freaking out".

            Well, you need to take the timeframe in which I wrote that article into account. I started writing it back when launchd was brand new and had it share of issues. (FWIW, I think the reported SSH issues were due to a, now corrected, bug in lookupd.) My hesitant approach to it was due to a healthy dose of ol

    • Re:Well written, but (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:39PM (#15963962) Homepage Journal

      I don't know if I'd go that far. OSX isn't 100% immune - it just has more common sense.

      In a nutshell, OS-X is built upon a known animal, whereas Windows is an animal which continues to be re-invented, like a leopard changing its spots to stripes, then plaid, then paisley, then something else. With such moving targets all the time it's small wonder they've got security issues. Some begin to be addressed with good programming practices (which Apple could certainly lapse at at any moment, and may well have and we haven't heard about) Another is to require tight control over interfaces between code from different departments. Microsoft going back to scratch time and again doesn't necessarily mean anything is getting better.

      • by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:44PM (#15964010)
        whereas Windows is an animal which continues to be re-invented

        I'm not sure that 're-invented' is how I'd describe windows, or their efforts at security.

        • Re:Well written, but (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:55PM (#15964098) Homepage Journal

          I'm not sure that 're-invented' is how I'd describe windows, or their efforts at security.

          In the past Microsoft have commented that they have completely ditched the code Windows was written with and re-written from ground up, to try to address myriad flaws. That's pretty drastic. I've done it with small projects which simply grew too large and unwieldy because they were never expected to scale to newer demands* Microsoft is effectively doing this with Vista and yet... there still appear to be security flaws. Something wrong with that picture. Could be they're just a victim of their success and such a massive undertaking of code is approaching the event horizon just before the black hole.

          *You know the type.. you develop some nifty little tool to summarise information for your own use and someone sees it and says, "Hey! That thing does in seconds what I spend a week doing! I need it, set me up with it!" Next thing you know your little tool has to be user friendly, go to printers, be in colour, etc. Continually piling in changes makes it fragile so you step back, figure what it all needs to do and how to achieve the goals and then recode, with an eye toward more scalibility and unforeseen features later.

      • What I thought was interesting in the article was how many of his complaints were probably due not to bad design per se, but to poor practices -- things like documentation, structural transparency, consistent use of system policies, etc.

        What struck me is that there are definitely seeming flaws in Windows that make it insecure as-is, but that it doesn't have to be this way; Microsoft has chosen and continues to choose to operate in such a way that exacerbates rather than minimizes the effect of many of the inherent weaknesses of the platform. A similarly designed system, managed and documented differently, would probably be less problematic.
      • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:36PM (#15964412)
        "In a nutshell, OS-X is built upon a known animal, whereas Windows is an animal which continues to be re-invented, like a leopard changing its spots to stripes, then plaid, then paisley, then something else."

        I am a Mac user, and I think it is an inherently safer platform design than Windows. But as was mentioned in a recent SANS newsletter, Apple has on occasion had problems with security issues that were resolved long ago on BSD proper and on Linux. So while it's true that OS X is "built upon a known animal", they haven't always been as consistent as I'd like with regard to learning from other groups' mistakes.
      • by Mister Whirly (964219) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:01PM (#15964603) Homepage
        "whereas Windows is an animal which continues to be re-invented, like a leopard changing its spots to stripes, then plaid"

        I think you are confused. Leopard, Tiger, and Jaguar are all Mac operating systems...
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Afrosheen (42464)
          I've always wondered what they're going to call the updates when they run out of big, dangerous cats. I suggest they move to something like poisonous frogs or deadly spiders.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by wrf3 (314267)
        Windows is ... like a leopard changing its spots to stripes

        But, but, but Mac OS X is going from Tiger to Leopard, so it's changing it's stripes to spots. Is that really any different?

        /ducks
        //running Tiger, eagerly waiting for Leopard
        ///oh, wait, this isn't Fark...
    • by fruitbane (454488) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:57PM (#15964110) Homepage
      "I don't know if I'd go that far. OSX isn't 100% immune - it just has more common sense. "

      This is, I think, the best summary I've ever read of OS X's inherent security advantage. No OS could really succeed and be 100% air-tight at the same time, IMO. And user- and developer-friendliness does often mean compromises that lead to security problems, but the article that this discussion refers to covers a lot of it well and MECC (parent) summarized succintly and effectively.

      OS X, as an OS, has more common sense built-in.
  • well, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:30PM (#15963899) Journal
    "Pretty soon any debate with Microsoft over security can be ended in one round when Apple stands up, says 'launchd', and sits back down"

    I would have though "(almost) no viruses" would have done the trick since OSX came out...

    Or, we don't effectively force everyone to run as super user all the time - if you prefer
  • by LinuxIsRetarded (995083) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:35PM (#15963931) Homepage
    Apple's taking a different approach: What users need is in the box: Anti-virus, anti-spam, encryption, image backup and restore, offsite safe storage through.

    Don't you think that if Microsoft offered this that everyone would cry monopoly? Actually, I've seen other people on Slashdot cry this before at the announcement of Microsoft's OneCare program, which isn't even bundled with the OS!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by planetmn (724378)
      Of course most on Slashdot would cry monopoly if they included all of the features in the OS. Around here MS is damned if they do, damned if they don't.

      -dave
    • I think this tension is impossible to avoid with proprietary software. Think about it for a minute: you can either dominate with an incomplete and insecure solution (so as to avoid monopoly programs), or you can be the complete-yet-far-less-popular alternative who avoids the monopoly accusations due to inferior market share.

      A company that assembles a complete, secure, and free package won't have to choose one of these routes. Unfortunately, security and freedom don't guarantee adoption.

    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:53PM (#15964083) Homepage
      It depends on how they offered it. If they made it impossible to uninstall, then yes, we would yell monopoly. However, if they made these features able to be uninstalled (or never installed in the first place) and easily replaced by third party tools, then I don't think we would have anything to complain about. I don't have any problems with MS including IE with the operating system, I just wish it could be removed from the system.
    • by Gryffin (86893) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:01PM (#15964134) Homepage
      Apple's taking a different approach: What users need is in the box: Anti-virus, anti-spam, encryption, image backup and restore, offsite safe storage through.
      Don't you think that if Microsoft offered this that everyone would cry monopoly?

      Microsoft has been declared a monopoly in Federal court, and found guilty of anti-trust offenses related to abusing that monopoly in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

      Apple, on the other hand, is not a monopoly, and hence it would be perfectly legal for them to bundle anything they damn well felt like bundling.

      Why is this so difficult to understand? Microsoft, because of their market position, is held to a different legal standard. End of story.

      • by KillerDeathRobot (818062) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:08PM (#15964195) Homepage
        Why is this so difficult to understand? Microsoft, because of their market position, is held to a different legal standard. End of story.

        It's not difficult to understand; it's annoying because it's the wrong argument, and it really muddies the debate. We don't need to hold Microsoft and Apple to different standards to show that one is better than the other. There is nothing wrong with MS bundling software with their OS. What was wrong was that they were forcing companies like Dell NOT to include competing software (such as Netscape).

        It's a moot point any way though, because in this case we aren't even talking about the right thing. As someone else mentioned, we're talking about a system that is built to resist viruses and such, not virus scanning software bundled with the OS.
        • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:43PM (#15964468)

          It's not difficult to understand; it's annoying because it's the wrong argument, and it really muddies the debate. We don't need to hold Microsoft and Apple to different standards to show that one is better than the other. There is nothing wrong with MS bundling software with their OS.

          I 100% disagree with this. It is illegal for MS to bundle any software with their OS, for which their is a separate market (like antivirus). Anyone who understands the economic models of monopolies should understand why. We are holding MS and Apple to the same standard. Neither can bundle products they have for which there is an existing market, with a product they have that is a monopoly in a market. It is illegal for MS to bundle antivirus software with Windows. It is not illegal for them to bundle antivirus with their mice or MS Office. It is legal for Apple to bundle antivirus with their OS. If Apple is ever ruled to have a monopoly on iPods it will be illegal for them to bundle antivirus with iPods (They are around 70% of the market now and some courts have already begun investigating the possibility).

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Mister Whirly (964219)
            As I recall (but IANAL) the agreement said Microsoft could not use it's clout with OEM companies to force them to not package comptetitor's software with systems sold. Microsoft itself doest "package" the software that comes on cookie-cutter systems. That is up to the OEM company like Dell, HP, Gateway etc.

            By your rationale, Microsoft's Notepad and Wordpad, and Apple's Text Edit would all violate the law because they are bundled with the OS and there are definitely existing markets for word processing.
    • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:30PM (#15964361)
      I haven't seen anyone cry "monopoly" over that. I've just seen people cry that Microsoft is selling services to fix problems in its own OS, like with OneCare, instead of fixing the problems in Windows to begin with. And guess what, despite Vista's security enhancements, it's still based on Win32, still based on a registry, and is basically just a bunch of new APIs and rewritten subsystems on top of the same old code.

      Also, there's a difference since in the Apple world, there isn't an antivirus or antispyware market, but in the Windows world, there is a huge market that's been around for over a decade, so it's a big deal when Microsoft starts bundling its own versions of these services.

      For the record, OS X ships with no antivirus software. Not needed.
    • ...if Windows were designed securely in the first place. This isn't a troll, just an observation.

      In a sense everyone is trying to argue that Microsoft can't include additional security tools because they'd be accused of leveraging their monopoly. The enitire antivirus industry likely wouldn't exist, and this would be a moot point, if Windows were designed securely from the start.

      What we seem to have now is pressure on Microsoft not to make things *too* much better because they would wipe out a lucrative b
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:09PM (#15964666) Homepage Journal
      The guy that wrote the article didn't get it.
      It has nothing to do with Microsoft not offering anti-virus, anti-spam, encryption....
      The problem has everything to do with Microsoft having to keep backwards compatibility!
      Windows wasn't designed to be used on a totally open network. It was meant to be a single user OS that ended up being used as a server and then being hung on an insecure network we call the Internet.
      Running windows with less than administrator rights is a pain.
      Installing software without administrator rights is impossible.

      The problem with Windows security is the same problem that Microsoft has with IE7 not following standards.
      They refuse to give up on backwards compatibility to fix fundamental flaws.

      The reason that people keep using Windows is because their old software works. That is Microsoft's big advantage in the market place. They are not going to loose that to fix security issues.
  • by FerretFrottage (714136) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:38PM (#15963953)
    What's worse than finding a worm in your Apple?

    Finding half a worm in your Apple.
  • by Shimmer (3036) <brianberns@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:39PM (#15963959) Homepage Journal
    It always traces back to Microsoft's untenable policy of maintaining gaps in Windows security to avoid competing with 3rd party vendors and certified partners

    So if they bundled everything you list (anti-virus, anti-spam, encryption, etc.) into the operating system, you don't think they'd be accused of illegally leveraging their monopoly advantage? Just look what happened when they integrated a web browser into the OS a few years ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by n2art2 (945661)
      The difference is. . . . Try and get rid of explorer. It is one thing to offer/install/bundle an option for those services, that can be deleted if the user decides to use another service. It's another to integrate it so far into the OS that you are forced to use it. (Think beyond websurfing.)
    • by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear&pacbell,net> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:06PM (#15964183) Homepage
      Sigh. The issue isn't bundling. Read. Please read! The issue was illegally leveraging their OS monopoly to abuse/obstruct competitors.

      Bundling is fine if OEMs, such as HP, Dell, and Compaq, can UNBUNDLE IE and install Firefox, for example. What happened was that Microsoft threatened Compaq with withholding OS licenses if they installed Netscape Navigator as the default web browser. Had they ONLY bundled, nothing would have been brought up against Microsoft.
  • slashdot this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:39PM (#15963961)
    Anyone notice the link at the bottom of the article?

    Links to slashdot submit article. http://slashdot.org/submit.pl [slashdot.org]

    Cute.
  • I wonder if they would have been slapped with an antitrust lawsuit if they incorporated antivirus in the OS. It certainly would of had a big impact on the antivirus companies.
    Maybe with apple incorporating it they have the green light to go ahead with it.
    • by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:54PM (#15964091)
      Maybe with apple incorporating it they have the green light to go ahead with it.

      Apple doesn't incorporate anti-virus/anti-malware into their OS. They incorporated good security, and made good use of it.

      MS could easily do the same even more with their more featurefull security model, if they wanted to, without incorporating any anti-virus/anti-malware into their operating system. Odd that instead of fixing their security problems, they just opted to compete with anti-virus/anti-malware vendors.

  • All I know is ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by boxlight (928484) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:39PM (#15963969)
    I'm no network admin, but all I know is since I switched to Mac I have no Norton or Symantec software running and there's no signs of threats anywhere. boxlight
  • Anti-virus? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:40PM (#15963975)
    If you don't count a trojan as a virus, then you don't need an anti-virus if your OS is secure. Apple can work on securing its OS or on an anti-trojan, but any effort spent on an anti-virus is wasted.
  • What's launchd? (Score:5, Informative)

    by peterdaly (123554) * <petedaly@ix.netc o m . com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:41PM (#15963980)
    Was I the only Mac user who didn't know what launchd was off the top of my head?

    In Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger, Apple introduced a new system startup program called launchd. The launchd daemon takes over many tasks from cron, xinetd, mach_init, and init, which are UNIX programs that traditionally have handled system initialization, called systems scripts, run startup items, and generally prepared the system for the user. And they still exist on Mac OS X Tiger, but launchd has superseded them in many instances. These venerable programs are widely used by system administrators, open source developers, managers of web services, even consumers who want to use cron to manage iCal scheduling, and they can still be called with launchd.

    The launchd daemon also provides a big performance boost to your system. At any given time, only those daemons that are actually used are launched; combined with the fact that daemons can shut themselves down and be relaunched as needed means that you can reduce the average memory footprint of the system.


    http://developer.apple.com/macosx/launchd.html [apple.com]
  • UNIX and viruses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:41PM (#15963985)
    Viruses are definitely part of the umbrella concept we often call "security." I've heard it mentioned many times that Macs do not suffer from viruses because they have a smaller market share, and virus authors invest their time into attacking more dominant systems. People who say this generally go on to say that as the Mac gains a larger market share, the number of viruses available for it will grow. I think this is of little consequence.

    Macs are based on UNIX. It's not faked to appear like UNIX, it is actually UNIX. The permissions system means that a common virus could damage a user's home directory, but the system for the most part would remain unaffected, including other users. It is still possible to write root-kit style viruses that take advantages of subtle bugs in the operating system and other software to gain control of the system, but this is significantly more complicated to do, and IIRC it was Theo from the OpenBSD project who said that attacks like this require many steps that often must take advantage of many vulnerabilities to elevate priviledges, and by fixing even one bug, a whole category of vulnerabilities (even if other bugs remain) becomes inaccessible to a would-be attacker. This, in addition to much of the code underlying OS X being available for hacking up by anybody, in addition to other projects actually hacking on this code (improvements from projects like Samba, Apache, GCC, FreeBSD, even various Linux projects, make it into Darwin and OS X.... and most of all the fact that users don't run as administrators, all of these reasons make it much less likely that viruses could be as damaging as on Windows.

    • Re:UNIX and viruses (Score:5, Informative)

      by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:03PM (#15964146) Journal
      I've heard it mentioned many times that Macs do not suffer from viruses because they have a smaller market share,

      When people say something like that, hold them by hand and take them over to netcraft.com and show them the market share of Web servers. Apache has been owning >60% of it for a long long time compared with ~20% share for IIS. And point out that almost all the worms attack IIS and not Apache. The reason why Windows/IIS remain vulnerable is because MS wrote them, not becuase of their high/low market share.

    • by wfberg (24378) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:08PM (#15964197)
      [..]say that as the Mac gains a larger market share, the number of viruses available for it will grow. I think this is of little consequence.[..] The permissions system means that a common virus could damage a user's home directory, but the system for the most part would remain unaffected, including other users [..] and most of all the fact that users don't run as administrators, all of these reasons make it much less likely that viruses could be as damaging as on Windows

      I think this is thinking too much from the perspective of old-school "format c:" destructive virusses.

      Today's malware isn't purely destructive anymore; in fact, little incentive exists to create a virus that merely destroys stuff.

      Today we're seeing worms that are used to send spam or perform DDOS attacks, and ransomware that encrypts your files and will only unlock them after you pay up.

      Access to a user's home directory is perfectly adequate for ransomware. Access to networkresources is sufficient to turn your computer into a zombie. Privileged system access is not the holy grail; access to specific resources are.

      User-based security offers no protection against this. Instead people often install programs to limit access to, for example, network resources - a software firewall that will inspect a process to see if it's legit before letting it use the network. Likewise we will need a security subsystem that prevent programs to write to files not created by them. For example; firefox should be able to upload a word document (read permissions) perhaps, but surely only word or openoffice should be permitted to (over)write it.

      This is more along the lines of capabilities, but it could be grafted onto user-based security systems (just run processes as different users and give those users permissions only to write to their own files and/or read from their own directories, with some exceptions (e.g. the filemanager)).

      Todays programs are so flexible and scriptable, not to mention just plain big and unverifiable, let alone complex and exploitable, that simply saying 'these programs have been deemed safe by an administrator, so they can access all your files if you run them' is no longer an adequate means of making sure applications stay within bounds. We really need to make programs stay on their own turf. Not just files; how about that registry? Why the hell should every program be able to read all of it, and write almost all of it, even keys that belong to a different program?

      It's not just windows; MacOS lacks such stuff at the moment too (though it will undoubtedly be much easier to integrate into it than into Windows). Really only SE Linux is set up to handle this sort of thing.
    • by Laur (673497) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:16PM (#15964253)
      The permissions system means that a common virus could damage a user's home directory, but the system for the most part would remain unaffected, including other users.

      In reality, this is not an important distinction for home users. I don't know about you, but I don't care a whole lot about by system, I can re-install everything without too much trouble. Replacing years of digital family photograghs, financial records, etc. in my home directory? Impossible. This is why I backup my home directly regularly, but don't bother with the system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by j-turkey (187775)

      Viruses are definitely part of the umbrella concept we often call "security." I've heard it mentioned many times that Macs do not suffer from viruses because they have a smaller market share, and virus authors invest their time into attacking more dominant systems. People who say this generally go on to say that as the Mac gains a larger market share, the number of viruses available for it will grow. I think this is of little consequence.

      IMO, this is a tired argument, especially considering what many mo

  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:41PM (#15963989) Homepage
    He seems to argue that Windows is less secure than OS X partly because if your Windows system gets infected, you can't trace the source of the problem, but with OS X you have a better chance of doing so. However I think this is the wrong thing to emphasize. If a piece of malware gets true root access on a system then it can do what it likes, including loading new kernel modules to hide files in the filesystem and so on. It's only lack of skill by some rootkit authors that make them detectable (so in effect, it's security by obscurity; there's a good argument that operating systems should make it as easy as possible to do such nasty things once you get root, so nobody will be tempted to think 'such things are only theoretical').

    Now he does mention that most services on OS X don't run with unrestricted privileges, so there is much less chance of malware getting root *in the first place*. This is the important thing to emphasize - not what to hopelessly fiddle with once you are already 0wned.

    I guess by root I don't necessarily mean what OS X or BSD or even Linux call root, but the classical Unix notion of the Almighty user who can do anything. Many BSDs have securelevel settings meaning that even root is restricted from doing certain things.
  • Read the sig you know where I stand. But at least this is not another security through obscurity piece. He does do a decent analysis of Mac OSX unix sub-system and makes a good argument of how it is inherently more secure.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:44PM (#15964011)
    >[...]it always traces back to Microsoft's untenable policy of maintaining gaps in Windows security to avoid competing with 3rd party vendors and certified partners.[...]

    What bizarro-universe is the writer living in to write something so patently false?

    Microsoft's Standard Operational Procedure is to wait-and-see which niche is picking up enough importance (and we all agree security is a major one this decade, right?) and then cutting off that vendor(s) oxygen by coming up with their own "superior" (guffaw) solution which MS gives away for free, next to nothing or by marrying it to some essential O.S. component.

    Another piece of Microsoft-propaganda no doubt.

    Sell it elsewhere, chum. I'm not interested in reading anything else you've written if this quote is representative of the drivel you are putting forth. Thank you.
  • by mellon (7048) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:47PM (#15964041) Homepage
    I think the conclusion that he draws is probably correct, but he doesn't really seem to explain why. The reason that systems like OS X and Linux are safer than Windows is not that launchd runs a shell, but that both Linux and OS X tend to run processes that don't need privileges as root.

    This is a substantial win. However, if you manage to compromise a process that is running as root, you do have full control of the machine, and you can install your own privileged software on the machine without an authentication prompt appearing on the console.

    Also, most of the man pages on OS X are woefully out of date, so giving the existence of these as a reason for why security is better on OS X is unfortunately a cruel joke. Third party apps from the Open Source community do often have better documentation, but the basic man pages from OS X are often years out of date - this is one of my pet peeves about OS X, I will admit.

    It sounds like the hack he's describing occurred because he'd installed third-party software that ran as a service with an open port, as SYSTEM (i.e., with full privileges) and that took over his machine. The reason this is less likely (not impossible, just less likely) is because if you are running a third party server process on OS X, it's probably a piece of open source software like Apache, which has been vetted to within an inch of its life, because it is open source, and the many people who care that it is secure have the freedom to check that it is secure. And it probably doesn't run with full privileges, as the author says.

    Anyway, like I said, he's right, but his reasoning is a little foggy. And it's important to be aware of the ways in which it's foggy, because this is your best chance of avoiding having your machine hacked.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:47PM (#15964042)

    Conceptually, I agree that LaunchD is a really slick idea and I really hope Linux and the BSDs take a good hard look at this code and the possibility of adopting it. That said, it is not a security panacea by any means, just one more clean, sensible implementation that leaves less room for a vulnerability. The thing that makes me hesitate to laud this feature, however, is the implementation. Apple has a lot of smart people working for them and a lot of old school UNIX geeks to whom secure programming is as natural as breathing. They also have a lot of coders and managers who realize that OS X is not a primarily security minded OS. Sure, it is better than Windows and on par with a desktop Linux distro, but it isn't a locked down OpenBSD install or a super secure Linux distro. They don't focus their efforts on security and it shows sometimes when they introduce new code. LaunchD replaces a number of time tested bits of code and while it is (IMHO) a much cleaner, nicer design I haven't a clue about how well written and tested it is, especially from a security perspective. I'd feel a lot better about claiming it as a security feature if I knew some white hats had pounded on it for a while and exposed anything Apple did not bother to think of. I'd feel a lot better if the OSS community in general jumped on it and adopted it, thus helping with this security testing and adding more eyes.

    I like LaunchD. I like OS X as a desktop. Lets just not get carried away here with random claims about security. OS X is inherently more secure than Windows, but that really isn't saying a lot. I'm not willing to just assume LaunchD is secure in and of itself, let alone that it will play a big part in securing the OS as a whole.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:01PM (#15964602)
      "Conceptually, I agree that LaunchD is a really slick idea and I really hope Linux and the BSDs take a good hard look at this code and the possibility of adopting it."

      Up until a few weeks ago, people in the *nix world didn't want to look at launchd because of "contamination concerns" regarding Apple's open source license. However at the recent WWDC, Apple announced that launchd (among other things) is being relicensed under the Apache License - so hopefully that will do the trick for the open source crowd.

      I realize that there are always going to be some GNU fanboys that won't touch anything unlesss it's under the GPL, of course.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:49PM (#15964051)
    I have to take it with a large rock of salt when I see
    OS X has no user account with privileges exceeding root.

    being offered as a "reason why OS X is more secure than Windows."

    The article claims that Administrator on Windows is equivalent to root; and that SYSTEM is more powerful than Administrator (and by implication more powerful than root). This is nonsense.

    Administrator is indeed less powerful than SYSTEM. However, Administrator is equivalent to a user on the sudoers list and/or with group write access to system directories. SYSTEM is the correct equivalent to root.

    We may quibble about how well Administrator accounts are protected from trojans; or whether non-Administrator accounts on Windows are of much use; those are valid arguments. However, claiming that, somehow, SYSTEM on Windows is magically more capable than root is ridiculous.

    If anything, Windows has a somewhat better design in that it is possible to set up privileged accounts with a specific power that only root has on UNIX, yet not have any of the other root powers. However, this capability is quite underutilized, and in many ways is undermined by other (unfortunate) decisions that Microsoft made.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:32PM (#15964373)

      If anything, Windows has a somewhat better design in that it is possible to set up privileged accounts with a specific power that only root has on UNIX, yet not have any of the other root powers.

      I don't want to quibble about nomenclature and real differences between security layers or accounts or whatever between platforms, but I think you're a little mistaken here. One of the reasons LaunchD is being applauded in this article is because it allows you to run a given process with very specific permissions without going to hassle of trying to create a special user account and while also integrating the scheduling and resource allocation in one, nice, neat, hopefully secure package. It obviates the need for straining the "user" metaphor as is so common. I don't exactly think it is really appropriate to claim it as the security benefactor, however, when what we're really talking about is that services aren't written to require unneeded permissions as much as on Windows.

  • by sjonke (457707) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:50PM (#15964057) Journal
    What users need is in the box: Anti-virus[....]
    If it is, it's hidden pretty well. Macs don't come with anti-virus software.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @01:53PM (#15964088) Journal
    When you own 90% of the market, not being interoperable with others is a commercial advantage. Yes, security is compromised, but it (MS) has trained corporations and individuals it is THEIR (I mean user's) responsibility to install and update "critical" security updates and install firewalls and antivirus software and keep them up to date. Now MS is going to sell anti-virus products. It is going to profit from the shoddiness of its own product. It is a great scam if you can get into it.

    As long as corporations confuse interoperability with "windows compatibility" the scam will go on. Only when the commercial user who forks over billions of dollars to MS every year demand true interoperability and injects real competition, it will end. There is no advantage in being the first among the users pushing for it. Pepsi will not care as long as Coke is also spending relatively the same amount of money for similar services. But someday somewhere some corp will bite the bullet and spend what it takes to break the vendor-lock in, and only after that the security situation will improve.

  • by mpapet (761907) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:05PM (#15964169) Homepage
    maintaining gaps in Windows security to avoid competing with 3rd party vendors

    Whoever dreamed up this rationalization is gifted.

    The holes are there by design. As in security wasn't a part of the overall design. I would argue that it still isn't.

    Like all the versions that have come before, "It's more secure" for about a week after launch and then I'm back to cleaning out infected PC's. This works out great for me because it's my job. Personally, the people that take my advice to switch -always- thank me later for making a switch.
  • .Mac is not "safe". (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:06PM (#15964177)
    offsite safe storage through .Mac

    dot Mac is not in any way secure / "safe storage". Unfortunately I bought a subscription before I realised how dangerously unsecure it is. When I started to configure Backup, I thought I'd do some digging first to see what was going on. It turns out that credentials are sent in plaintext. Communication between the user and mac.com is not encrypted. Storage on iDrive is also not encrypted. Backup archives have no encryption.

    It's completely wide-open to snooping attacks, and nobody should trust anything to it besides their weekly grocery list or other documents that they don't mind any snoopers (wireless interceptors or Apple employees) from freely browsing. I expect a major security breach is inevitable.. it's just a matter of time. It would take one person with a wireless snooper at Macworld, gathering hundreds of juicy high-profile targets to mess with - and dot Mac will be destroyed by a torrent of negative publicity.

    Of the entire Apple product range, dot Mac is the one that is most stuck in the early 90's. It works.. but is a severely inadequate solution.
  • by guruevi (827432) <<evi> <at> <smokingcube.be>> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:18PM (#15964269) Homepage
    Apparently this guy had the experience switching from Mac -> Windows and see what happens. A lot of people say it has to do with market penetration (Thanks to the M$ FUD) but nothing is less true. There are far more hosts running on any flavor of Unix or using the GNU tools or somewhat compatible tools for that matter than Windows hosts connected to the Internet.

    The biggest flaw in Windows is stuff running as SYSTEM. Try this in Windows: schedule a command in a terminal to run cmd.exe the next minute using the "at" command. As you will notice, you will get your cmd.exe... running as SYSTEM. You don't even have to be a very privileged user to do that, kill your own explorer.exe and start explorer.exe in that cmd.exe you have and guess what: you're running your system as SYSTEM. This would be like running Bash, KDE or Gnome as root, although possible, you can't elevate root out of standard user rights. Same thing for hooks into IIS (.NET) or any other application, they can all elevate to SYSTEM without too much trouble. Would be like suggesting to run Bind or Apache as root, and as any Unix guru would say: Blasphemy! Blasphemy! and you would feel the vibration of Rich Stevens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Richard_Stevens) spinning in his grave at the speed of the fan running in the server.
  • A few points (Score:5, Informative)

    by Foolhardy (664051) <csmith32.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:19PM (#15964278)
    The LanManServer service (aka Server) is mostly implemented in kernel mode in srv.sys, so most of the user-mode tirade is irrelevant.
    [From the article]

    SYSTEM is a pseudo-user (LocalSystem) that trumps Administrator (like UNIX's root) in privileges. SYSTEM cannot be used to log in, but it also has no password, no login script, no shell and no environment, therefore
    The activity of SYSTEM is next to impossible to control or log.

    SYSTEM doesn't trump Administrator(s): since either can control the kernel, they both represent full control. SYSTEM can't magically bypass security descriptors any more than administrators can; both have but indirect end runs available. SYSTEM's profile has the global system environment. In Win32, shells have considerably less importance, but SYSTEM processes can still have them. SYSTEM's actions can certainly be audited, so I'm not sure what they meant by impossible to log.

    Most of the code running on any Windows system at a given time is related to services, most or all of which run with SYSTEM privileges, therefore [...]

    There are lots of services running as low privilege LOCAL SERVICE and NETWORK SERVICE. Perhaps there could be more. Note that a single svchost can represent several services.

    Windows will notify you on an attempt to overwrite one of its own system files stored here, but does not try to protect privileged software.

    The binaries that implement system services are protected by system file protection. SFP isn't a security feature; it's there to work around buggy installer behavior.

    Windows requires that users log in with administrative privileges to install software, which causes many to use privileged accounts for day-to-day usage.

    This isn't true on a domain where the admin has designated installable packages, and RunAs works fine for installation programs that are written properly.

    Microsoft made it easy for commercial applications to refuse a debugger's attempt to attach to a process or thread.

    I'm not sure what's meant by this, but if your kernel is owned on any OS, a rootkit can be installed to evade any kind of debugging.

    Access to the massive, arcane, nearly unstructured, non-human-readable Windows Registry, which was to be obsolete by now, remains the only resource a Windows attacker needs to analyze and control a Windows system.

    Non-human-readable? Never used the registry editor? The key and value names seem to be in English... It's like saying that a filesystem isn't human-readable because you need ls. There are no plans to make the registry obsolete for system configuration. In fact, the new boot loader's config database is a registry hive. As for owning the computer throught the registry, every key is protected by an ACL. There's nothing inherant in the registry that allows an attack, privilege escilation or otherwise.

    Another trick that attackers learned from Microsoft is that Registry entries can be made read-only even to the Administrator, so you can find an exploit and be blocked from disarming it.

    So then the admin takes ownership of the keys in question, forcibly with the SeTakeOwnershipPrivilege, and since the owner of an object can always set the DACL, the admin returns himself full control. Either that or use the SeRestorePrivilege to overwrite the key directly.

    One of the strongest tools that Microsoft has to protect users from malware is Access Control Lists (ACLs), but standard tools make ACLs difficult to employ, so most opt for NTFS's inadequate standard access rights.

    What's wrong with the shell's ACL editor? What's wrong with the default permissions?

    OS X has no user account with privileges exceeding root.

    Since root can ignore security, this isn't saying anything. In Windows, only the kernel can bypasss security.

    Un

  • The way I see it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:44PM (#15964470) Homepage

    Windows systems have been, are, and probably will be getting hacked - a lot - on all levels in the forseeable future, they talk up security but there is still the current (well publicized) vulnerabilities.

    Other systems (Mac/Linux) aren't having such major issues - they tout security, and are blasted because 'they are obscure'. There is a lot of 'talk' of possible vulnerabilities, and there are speculations there may be vulnerabilities. But they are STILL more secure now and have a good track record.

    What part of this would make me trust Windows more?
  • Secure principles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:48PM (#15964501) Homepage
    Mac is not dramatically more secure through launchd...

    It is simple really. Six years into OS X, growing market share, and no viruses in the wild.

    First principle. No ports open by default. Macs ship with a closed box. Plug it into the Internet, wait, and your machine will never get infected simply because it is not listening on any port, and no attacker has any foothold to get into the box. Over the years Windows has shipped with a wide variety of open ports, whether they be for netbios, smbd, messenger, IIS (on NT), or others. Many of these have been launching pads for viruses and worms.

    Second principle. Design the OS from the ground up to support privilege descalation. That is, make it so that every action on the machine is executed with User privileges or less, unless you really need more privilege. Launchd is a part of this. On Windows, you still have ActiveX with escalatable privilege, and people get infected from web surfing or opening email.

    That is really all it takes. Make it so a user cannot compromise the OS trivially, and there are no open ports, and you made a box as secure as a Mac. Once you start opening ports, you need to know what you are doing or you will be 0wn3d by some script kiddy. Make it secure by default, and force the user to take positive action to do anything that is a potential security problem (like installing executables from random places on the internet).
  • by scovetta (632629) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:09PM (#15964669) Homepage
    Interesting read. I agree with most of his points, with comments on the following:

    Microsoft does not sign or document the name and purpose of the files it places in SYSTEM32
    Most, if not all of the files can be identified through a simple Google search. It doesn't get Microsoft off the hook -- they should provide proper documentation, but such information is available.

    Windows requires that users log in with administrative privileges to install software, which causes many to use privileged accounts for day-to-day usage.
    Not all software. User-level installations should be possibly to non-restricted directories.

    Windows requires extraordinary effort to extract the path to, and the files and TCP/UDP ports opened by, running services, and to certify that they are valid.
    TCPView [sysinternals.com]. Now you have it. And since Microsoft now owns Sysinternals, I guess they have it too.

    Malicious code or data can be concealed in NTFS files' secondary streams. These are similar to HFS forks, but so few would think to look at these.
    This is not really Microsoft's problem. If no one can remember the features of the OS, it's their fault when they overlook them.

    Apple's daemons have man pages, and third parties are duty-bound to provide the same. Admins also expect to be able to run daemons, with verbose reporting, in a shell for testing.
    Duty-bound? Sure, they probably all provide them because that's what everyone else does, but most Windows applications include a help file too.

    Launchd can tripwire directories so that if they're altered unexpectedly, launchd triggers a response.
    I believe TripWire exists for Windows too.

    The UNIX/POSIX API, standard command-line tools and open source tools leave malware unable to hide from a competent OS X administrator. It takes a new UNIX programmer longer to choose an editor than it does to write a console app that walks the process tree listing privileged processes. Finding the owners of open TCP/UDP ports or open files is similarly trivial. The "system" is not opaque.
    I may be wrong here, but aren't their other ways of injecting malware into a system than setting it up as a detectable process? I know on Windows machines there are a number of ways to get around a process walk -- does the same thing exist in *nix?

  • Total crap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jiushao (898575) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:47PM (#15964939)

    It is not that hard to argue for OSX security over Windows security due to the track-records, but this article is total crap. A few of the points:

    • All Windows background processes/daemons are spawned from a single hyper-privileged process and referred to as services.: Right, just like how OSX daemons are launched by launchd, what is the point here?
    • By default, Windows launches all services with SYSTEM-level privileges: This is plain false, you have to give a user account that the service should run as, and at that point the extremely comprehensive NT security model kicks in.
    • SYSTEM is a pseudo-user (LocalSystem) that trumps Administrator (like UNIX's root) in privileges. SYSTEM cannot be used to log in, but it also has no password, no login script, no shell and no environment, therefore the activity of SYSTEM is next to impossible to control or log: Right. I don't see the problem. This is akin to the classic "you should not always run as root", it is counter-intuitive to people used to the UNIX security model of course, but it is not by any means a bad idea. There is no reason to have ridicolously powerful login accounts when such priviliges are better brokered by daemons. If needed you can of course still elevate the permissions though, but it should not be needed.
    • Windows buries most privileged software, service executables and configuration files in a single, unstructured massive directory (SYSTEM32) that is frequently used by third parties. Windows will notify you on an attempt to overwrite one of its own system files stored here, but does not try to protect privileged software: This is an odd complaint, of course the NT security model applies to system32, set any permissions you feel like. Massive usntructured directory? In comparison to the fine old let's-dump-it-in-/usr UNIX tradition? :)
    • Microsoft does not sign or document the name and purpose of the files it places in SYSTEM32: Right click on any dll/exe in system32, click properties, click version and you get a short description of what the file is for.
    • Windows requires extraordinary effort to extract the path to, and the files and TCP/UDP ports opened by, running services, and to certify that they are valid: Granted the builtin stuff is weak, which is why every sane Windows user quickly downloads Process Explorer [sysinternals.com] (recently bought by Microsoft actually, keep your fingers crossed that it becomes standard). At any rate, pretending that this is an inherent property of the operating system is plain wrong.
    • Access to the massive, arcane, nearly unstructured, non-human-readable Windows Registry, which was to be obsolete by now, remains the only resource a Windows attacker needs to analyze and control a Windows system: Massive sure. "Arcane"? How so? Seems quite similar to Mac plists actually. "Nearly unstructured"? This is just bullshit, it is extremely well-structured. "non-human-readable"? Well, use regedit, not unlike needing a utility to read binary property lists on Mac. The core of the complain appears to be "if we hide settings all over the place they'll be hard to find for the bad people!" which is the worst attempt at security-through-obscurity I have ever heard.
    • Another trick that attackers learned from Microsoft is that Registry entries can be made read-only even to the Administrator, so you can find an exploit and be blocked from disarming it and Malicious code or data can be concealed in NTFS files' secondary streams. These are similar to HFS forks, but so few would think to look at these: "Once executed with administrator priviliges exploits can do hard-to-recover harm to your system, the horror!". These are idiotic complaints.

    With all that said I can easily see people going to OSX to improve security, that does not make that article anything but deeply flawed however.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pboulang (16954)
      I think a lot of your responses are tripe, kneejerk, and not well thought through. Let's look at a few:

      "Microsoft does not sign or document the name and purpose of the files it places in SYSTEM32:" Right click on any dll/exe in system32, click properties, click version and you get a short description of what the file is for.

      I see a file. I click on it. There is a desciption. ok... so how can I tell if that file is supplied by microsoft or is it droppings from malware? Part of the article you ignore in thi

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Foolhardy (664051)

        There is a desciption. ok... so how can I tell if that file is supplied by microsoft or is it droppings from malware?

        System binaries have digital signatures. Five seconds on Google turned up To verify that system files have a digital signature [microsoft.com]. Process Explorer [sysinternals.com] can also verify the signatures of loaded binaries. In any case, the system directories are trusted and can only be modified by highly privileged accounts (i.e. admins); if malware can put files in here, the machine is already compromised.

        Even dll's a

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Senjaz (188917)

      Windows requires extraordinary effort to extract the path to, and the files and TCP/UDP ports opened by, running services, and to certify that they are valid: Granted the builtin stuff is weak, which is why every sane Windows user quickly downloads Process Explorer (recently bought by Microsoft actually, keep your fingers crossed that it becomes standard). At any rate, pretending that this is an inherent property of the operating system is plain wrong.

      I can only hope you are right, but past experience wi

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