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Apple's Unlikely Security Mentor: Microsoft 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-use-head-for-something-other-than-target dept.
snydeq writes "Apple has much to learn about securing an operating system, and it could learn how from Microsoft, Roger Grimes writes in the wake of further evidence that Macs are more vulnerable to attack than Windows machines. 'It's taken Microsoft 10 years to turn security from a weakness into a strength. Apple can use the lessons learned by Microsoft to manage a quick turnaround. Apple has already hired one of Microsoft's former security leaders, Window Snyder, and it has adopted a modified form of Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle programming practices. Apple has the benefit of seeing how Microsoft fixed its past mistakes.'"
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Apple's Unlikely Security Mentor: Microsoft

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  • MS is the typical fast followers - let someone else test the market; then jump in and take advantage of the new market while learning from the pioneer's mistakes. then push big to capture the market and crowd everyone else out. Once you're in you can expand and improve your product. It's been pretty effective for them over the years.
  • Meanwhile (Score:5, Informative)

    by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday August 12, 2011 @02:27PM (#37071600)

    Meanwhile actual hackers, like the guys who won the Pwn2own contests by beating OSX security, now say OSX Lion is more secure than Windows [macnn.com] (even though they previously freely admitted Snow Leopard was trailing Windows' [macobserver.com] latest offering in that department.)

    "Both Miller and his co-author in the book The Mac Hacker's Handbook, Dino Dai Zovi of Trail of Bits said that from a security perspective, Snow Leopard was little better on Leopard, but that Lion is a "significant improvement." Zovi describes the level of security in Lion as "Windows 7 plus plus." Apple hired the inventor of the BitFrost security system for OLPC, Ivan Krstic, two years ago in an effort to beef up core OS security. Krstic's methods in BitFrost mirror closely what has now been implemented in Lion."

    • by goombah99 (560566)

      sigh... windows security was highly compromised by a few very simple things. It encouraged users to be Admins by making simple tasks require admin, its registry required modifying system resource handles by untrusted apps, and it had no way to tag files as tainted after a download to warn users when they opened them.

      Then the access controls that were implemented swung the pendulum too far too early. Unix permissions on a mac are useful while not being terribly difficult to maintain. The OS will take ca

      • by PickyH3D (680158)

        Because for every "big new hope" security feature that you described, except default sandboxing for all (it has been in IE for awhile), Microsoft brought into Windows starting with XP Service Pack 2, which came out in 2004.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Because for every "big new hope" security feature that you described, except default sandboxing for all (it has been in IE for awhile), Microsoft brought into Windows starting with XP Service Pack 2, which came out in 2004.

          I presume that's their point? They're beneficial, but can't fix Windows' poor design and decades of backwards compatible security holes.

        • Complex ACLs have been around since the inception of NTFS, and remain better than most other commonly used FS ACL options (someone is likely to make a fool out of me with such a broad statement, but oh well).

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        [Windows] encouraged users to be Admins by making simple tasks require admin, its registry required modifying system resource handles by untrusted apps, and it had no way to tag files as tainted after a download to warn users when they opened them.

        ...

        I dont' see why anyone would think that Apple is a follower of MS.

        Because IE6 introduced tagging files as downloaded so you get a warning when you open them. Vista defaults new users to non-admin accounts and even on admin accounts runs apps at user privilege level and asks for the admin password as required. It also had built in sandboxing (IE7 used it) and virtualised both the filesystem and the registry, on top of tightening up ACLs.

        Apple has been introducing similar changes at a later time, which is the definition of "following". Not necessarily "copying" or "catch

    • by farrellj (563) *

      These people are definitely better informed about the internals of the operating systems in question. Too many security "experts" simply know now to read books and articles written by other security "experts", and a number of them are paid shrills for various operating system owners. If someone can Pwn your system, then go and tell you both how and why they were able to do it, I would trust their opinion more than someone who is a talking head at some Magazine, Website or TV program!

      • by Baseclass (785652)

        paid shrills

        I wasn't aware there was a market for such a thing.

        • by farrellj (563) *

          There are many place where you can sign up to do "reviews" and/or run blogs that are actually supported by various companies. A person I know makes a living doing this. Similarly, publishers and authors use promo companies that will go and write good reviews for their books on Amazon, and bad reviews of their competitors...

          ttyl
                  Farrell

          • by sessamoid (165542)

            There are many place where you can sign up to do "reviews" and/or run blogs that are actually supported by various companies. A person I know makes a living doing this. Similarly, publishers and authors use promo companies that will go and write good reviews for their books on Amazon, and bad reviews of their competitors...

            ttyl Farrell

            You're missing the point of his post. The point is that you used the wrong word. The word you want is "shills", not "shrills".

        • by grcumb (781340)

          paid shrills

          I wasn't aware there was a market for such a thing.

          Come on! You mean you've never heard of the Sopranos?!?

    • Re:Meanwhile (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jimicus (737525) on Friday August 12, 2011 @03:16PM (#37072396)

      IMV, Apple products/features over the course of the last 5-8 years follow a fairly straightforward model which can be broken down into a few steps.

      1. Release Not-Terribly-Shiny Version 1.0. It may not be the most sophisticated in the world, it may have a whole heap of issues. But it will be released. The rest of the world says "ho-hum". It probably won't sell spectacularly, but it won't be an abject failure. (See also: First generation iPod. First generation iPhone. OS X when first released.)
      2. Release Shiny Version n+1. It fixes most of the issues of the previous version. Technologically it's unusual for it to do anything new, anything that the competition doesn't already do. But what it does it executes with so much style, so much polish that the rest of the industry is left looking rather pathetic and scrabbling to catch up. It sells spectacularly. (See also iPhone 3G)
      3. Apple will rest on its laurels. There will be updates to their products, but by and large they'll be relatively minor increments rather than ground-breaking "my God that's amazing" ideas. These will be released as Shiny Version 3.0 and 4.0. (See also iPhone 3GS, OS X versions 10.3-10.4).
      4. The rest of the industry will catch up. Products will appear that compete with Apple's equivalent on features, price and polish. Then, just as people are starting to seriously question Apple and wonder what they're doing...
      5. Repeat steps 2-4.

      If I'm right, the iPhone 5 won't be a huge breakthrough over the iPhone 4. It may have a few tweaks here and there, but it won't be "Steve, take me now!" fantastic. The iPhone 6, however, will probably be leaps and bounds ahead of the 5.

    • by timster (32400)

      Yeah but, on the other hand, talking to hackers, even information security experts, isn't really good enough. There are too many opinions out there and not enough facts.

      The first problem is that we don't have any sort of useful objective metric to compare the security of various operating systems. "Number of vulnerabilities found" is unfair to the popular ones. "Severity of the worst vulnerability found" is useless because everyone has remote root exploits found from time to time.

      And even an objective metri

    • OSX Lion is also a whopping 3 weeks old, while Win7 is 2 years old. Want to bet that when Windows 8 comes out, it will be more secure than OSX Lion?

      Regardless, you and I both know that when the next Pwn2Own comes along, the Probook is going down first. Where the money is, there will be the exploits.

      • OSX Lion is also a whopping 3 weeks old, while Win7 is 2 years old. Want to bet that when Windows 8 comes out, it will be more secure than OSX Lion?

        Regardless, you and I both know that when the next Pwn2Own comes along, the Probook is going down first. Where the money is, there will be the exploits.

        Sure I hope every OS that comes out after Lion will be even more secure, I wouldn't mind a security arms race. I was just pointing out that Apple has (privately at least) acknowledged some of its shortcomings and is taking steps.

        The next Pwn2own will certainly be interesting as the traditional attack vector, Safari, has had a lot of work done under the hood. Can't wait to see what they'll come up with.

  • There are lots of "security professionals" who actually have very little technical knowledge, let alone technical knowledge specific to security.

    Having vague ideas on a process doesn't mean having to hire a particular person.

    What's actually going on here, Apple?

    • I first met Window about 12 years ago, she was sharp and capable when it came to security. I doubt much has changed. In terms of achievement, not every achievement ends up being a big publicized event where implementors are handed plaques to commemorate the occasion. Security is a boring and incremental effort when you're trying to improve process.

      So, I guess I'm a little biased with the (weak) personal connection, but don't hate just because you don't know who she is or what she's done.

  • Not unlikely at all (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Most security professionals (and even famous hackers, like pwn2own winners) today acknowledge that Microsoft security development practices are very good, and so are their latest OS. Everbody who has not devolved into pure fanboism understands that this can be the case even if they still have a higher volume of issues than Mac have for now.
    • by bberens (965711)
      It takes a long time for "common knowledge" to change. Take for example American cars. Whether you think they're on par or not they have made a lot of progress in catching up with foreign manufacturers but are still largely considered inferior products.
      • That's because we Americans are cheap and actually prefer inferior cars to better ones because they are generally cheaper.

        I'd love to buy an American car if they'd just make one that isn't engineered with bottom line choices taking priority over the choice to make a nice vehicle (even if it costs a little more to do so).

  • 'It's taken Microsoft 10 years to turn security from a weakness into a strength"

    Really? A strength? Seriously?

    Is that why we got the ping of death back in Vista/Win7/2008 because of a forked TCP stack?....
    Because Security is a "Strength" for Microsoft?

    Honestly, while security *may* be better [and I'm not sure that's true] at MS, it certainly IS NOT a strength of theirs.

    If that's the view of the moron who wrote this - I'll trust everything else written with the same level of massive skepticism. [i.e. It's clear a moron wrote this - so I'll trust everything else in here just as much as I'd trust any other moron.]

    • Really? A strength? Seriously? Is that why we got the ping of death back in Vista/Win7/2008 because of a forked TCP stack?.... Because Security is a "Strength" for Microsoft?

      You'll notice a great majority of the exploits are found in old code. They've got quite rigorous security practices now, and their new code is benefiting greatly from it. I don't know if I'd say security is a strength of their products right now, as there's plenty of old code left to exploit. But they're certainly on the path to get there.

      • by GSloop (165220)

        Pardon me if I'm not overwhelmed.

        MS: "Yeah, your home is like Fort Knox - no one will break in through the new stuff we built. Mumble mumble mumble"
        Me: "What was that mumbling?"
        MS: "Well, everything is really secure, except the old stuff - like, you know, the doors and windows. That's old stuff. You can't hold us responsible, even if we built it. Only the new stuff matters and it's like a rock! No one will break in through the roof or walls!"
        Me: "Ah, yeah - I feel so much better already!"

        Sheesh.

        If the new s

  • by v1 (525388) on Friday August 12, 2011 @02:40PM (#37071822) Homepage Journal

    It's taken Microsoft 10 years to turn security from a weakness into a strength

    The only thing "strong" about windows security is the botnets that grow to 100,000 computers strong

    Until MS expunges the litany of windows-running botnets from my inbox I'm not buying that BS. If they can take down the botnets, I'll acknowledge they've taken security seriously from a consumer protection standpoint. They can trot around the ring all day long yelling "We're tough on security now!" and I'll sit back with an "I'll believe it when I see some results" attitude. Put up or shut up. Ya I know, fat chance, but that's my opinion on it.

  • ...that now every new version of OSX will run slower and slower?

  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday August 12, 2011 @03:44PM (#37072800)

    I really can't think of two companies that approach the problem from such different directions:

    • Apple has a very top-down developer/third party attitude about its relationship with developers. It loves them and everything, but they take the interpretation of their developer documentation very seriously, they don't give product or platform roadmaps, and they will change, deprecate and remove APIs such as their wont. To Apple, the computer buyer is the customer, and the developers are a sort of collateral operation. Microsoft sees developers as their main customers, and go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that if a program ran under some version of Windows, it will always run without the developer having to update -- if it runs once, Microsoft considers that a contract. This makes the platform much more stable and predictable but allows all sorts of bad behavior to go uncorrected.
    • Apple leverages lots of open source projects to provide the middleware on their platform; granted they sometimes leverage quite old versions of open source projects. Microsoft is committed to in-house development of the complete system -- you'd never see Microsoft ship OpenSSH, KHTML, or a Ruby interpreter with their operating system, they're much more apt to ship their own tools to accomplish the same things, with all the benefit and risk that entails.
    • Microsoft is committed to the PC as a platform for computing, and differentiating the "power" of a Real Computer to things like mobile devices or appliances, so they don't countenance things like sandboxes, curated app stores, the principle of least privilege -- they're much more deferential to developers. Apple is happy to impose much tighter restrictions system-level restrictions (in Lion, apps aren't even allowed to traverse the filesystem directly anymore, all of this happens outside the apps address space), and Apple is much less grandiose and much more practical about designing programming environments.
    • Apple sees the ultimate security of the system as the vendor's responsibility. Microsoft sees the ultimate security of the system as the user's responsibility. Pick your poison.
  • Obvious point here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Friday August 12, 2011 @03:54PM (#37072948)

    'It's taken Microsoft 10 years to turn security from a weakness into a strength.

    Microsoft security isn't a strength, it's mediocre at best. This statement is just blatantly false.

    Apple have problems but they are fixable because they started with a solid proven design, UNIX. Microsoft never had that advantage.

    • Obvious? Not so much (Score:4, Informative)

      by benjymouse (756774) on Friday August 12, 2011 @05:25PM (#37074116)

      ... because they started with a solid proven design, UNIX. Microsoft never had that advantage.

      Yeah, good UNIX proven design

      Like setuid servers (not!) where even simple bugs allow an attacker direct root access

      Like the hopelessly inadequate me-us-world security coarse-grained security which requires proper ACLs to be bolted on top.

      Like you cannot set up proper inheritance of security from parent folder, leading admins to design strange processes to wake up and chmod files.

      Like the almighty root to rule them all. No separation of duties there. (Windows has proper separation of duties based on privileges. Even admin does not own all privileges, for instance the admin *cannot* write to or clear the security log).

      Like the UNIX idea of a "token" which are just UIDs hard-wired to user accounts. (Windows has *real* process tokens which can be manipulated per process, e.g. stripping certain privileges from a process even if it runs under an admin account).

      Windows security design is not perfect, but it is a god deal better designed and more capable than the "UNIX proven design". Why do you think SELinux was developed by the NSA? Because Linux with its "proven design" was woefully inadequate for government work - a task for which Windows is certified but only few Linuxes - those with SELinux).

      We keep hearing about this "superior" Unix security design. But it is always referred to in the abstract with no details. Maybe it is some magical fairy or Apple dust?

      Yes, a good admin can lock down a Linux with apparmor or SELinux pretty tight. Both apparmor and SELinus are solutions which compensates for the initial inadequate design.

      • by yuhong (1378501)

        Yea, this myth is old, and I am surprised that people continue to spread it today, even though MS had not release any DOS-based Windows versions since 2001.

  • restaM is a security teacher. restaM is Master written backwards. To learn from a restaM you do everything the opposite way. If they do A you do !A. If they advice you to do B you do !B. This is how Apple can learn from Microsoft the security lessons. oops sorry. snossel !
  • Given that Apple have now revealed themselves to be every bit as evil as Microsoft (as opposed to just wanna-be evil, as the more perceptive of you will have known for at least the past decade) it's not surprising that these two scum-infested megacorps are now talking.

We are Microsoft. Unix is irrelevant. Openness is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.

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