Apple missed security boat with Snow Leopard, says researcher
Wasted opportunity to really lock down the OS, argues Mac hacking expert Charlie Miller
Computerworld - Apple missed a golden opportunity to lock down Snow Leopard when it again failed to fully implement security technology that Microsoft perfected nearly three years ago in Windows Vista, a noted Mac researcher said today.
Dubbed ASLR, for address space layout randomization, the technology randomly assigns data to memory to make it tougher for attackers to determine the location of critical operating system functions, and thus make it harder for them to craft reliable exploits.
"Apple didn't change anything," said Charlie Miller, of Baltimore-based Independent Security Evaluators, the co-author of The Mac Hacker's Handbook, and winner of two consecutive "Pwn2own" hacker contests. "It's the exact same ASLR as in Leopard, which means it's not very good."
Two years ago, Miller and other researchers criticized Apple for releasing Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard, with half-baked ASLR that failed to randomize important components of the OS, including the heap, the stack and the dynamic linker, the part of Leopard that links multiple shared libraries for an executable.
Miller was disappointed that Apple didn't improve ASLR from Leopard to Snow Leopard. "I hoped Snow Leopard would do full ASLR, but it doesn't," said Miller. "I don't understand why they didn't. But Apple missed an opportunity with Snow Leopard."
Even so, Miller said, Apple made several moves that did improve Mac OS X 10.6's security. Two that stand out, he said, were its revamp of QuickTime and additions to DEP (data execution prevention), another security feature used in Windows Vista.
"Apple rewrote a bunch of QuickTime," said Miller, "which was really smart, since it's been the source of lots of bugs in the past." That's not surprising, since QuickTime supports scores of file formats, historically its weak link. Last week, in fact, Apple patched four critical QuickTime vulnerabilities in the program's parsing of various file formats.
Mac OS X Snow Leopard
- Apple signals end to OS X Snow Leopard support
- Apple sneaks Safari update into Snow Leopard
- OS X Snow Leopard stubbornly rejects retirement
- Snow Leopard users: Just try to pry this from my cold, dead hands
- Apple goes against grain, extends support for Snow Leopard
- Mac users left wondering if OS X Snow Leopard's retired
- Opinion: In depth with Apple's Snow Leopard Server
- Apple fixes data deletion bug in Snow Leopard, blocks Atom 'hackintoshes'
- Smackdown: Windows 7 takes on Apple's Snow Leopard
- Snow Leopard sales roar out the gate
- Radicati: Cloud Business Email - Market Quadrant 2013 Google was named the top cloud business email provider in a recent report by research firm Radicati. Out of 14 key players, Google...
- Tablets in the Enterprise: A Checklist for Successful Deployment How can you enterprise manage and secure tablets in order to protect corporate data while providing access to the information and applications employees...
- Enterprise Mobility: A Checklist for Secure Containerization The advantages and disadvantages of the multiple approaches to containerization. Learn More>>
- Enterprise File Sync & Share Checklist File sync and share has changed the way people work and collaborate in today's tech-savvy world. Gone are the email roadblocks, clunky FTP...
- Live Webcast LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy... All Security White Papers | Webcasts