Apple invites bug researchers to scrutinize Lion OS
But security experts who accept must keep findings secret
Computerworld - Apple is offering security experts a copy of the developer preview of Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, and asking them for feedback.
Several prominent Mac security researchers have reported that they received invitations to try out the Lion preview, which Apple issued Thursday.
"Apple has invited me to look at the Lion developer preview," said Dino Dai Zovi in a tweet yesterday. "I won't be able to comment on it until its release, but hooray for free access!"
Charlie Miller, an analyst with Baltimore-based consulting firm Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) and Dai Zovi's co-author, confirmed today that he had also received an invitation to try out Lion.
The preview comes with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that prevents Zovi, Miller and others from commenting publicly about what they find. But Apple has asked for feedback and provided researchers an e-mail address to report vulnerabilities or other issues, said Miller.
"They've never done this before," noted Miller in an interview today. "That they're thinking of reaching out [to researchers] is a good positive step, but whether it makes a difference, I'll believe it when I see it."
Miller has been critical of Apple's security practices in the past, saying in 2008 that Mac OS X was an easier target at the time than either Windows or Linux.
Miller has proven his point at the last three Pwn2Own hacking contests by walking away with cash prizes and laptops for exploiting vulnerabilities in Mac OS X and Safari, Apple's browser. Miller is slated to tackle Safari and Apple's iPhone on March 9 at this year's Pwn2Own.
Other researchers have heard the news, if not received an invitation to the preview, and given their two cents on expectation for security improvements.
"I doubt we'll see any real security innovation in Lion," opined Alexander Sotirov on Twitter. And in a later tweet aimed at Miller, Sotirov said, "I'm sure we'll see improvements in Lion, perhaps even full ASLR. But that doesn't count as 'innovation' in 2011."
Sotirov is an independent security researcher, who with Miller and Dai Zovi, launched a 2010 effort they dubbed "No Free Bugs" that proposed researchers should be paid for their work because vulnerabilities have value.
ASLR, or "address space layout randomization," is an anti-exploit technology that 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.
Windows, for example, leans on ASLR, but Apple's current operating system -- 2009's Snow Leopard -- relies on partial ASLR that doesn't randomize important components of the OS. Microsoft has included ASLR in Windows since Vista's late 2007 debut.
After Snow Leopard's August 2009 launch, Miller said Apple missed the security boat by not fully implementing ASLR.
Apple has not disclosed a ship date for Lion -- saying only that it will be available "this summer" -- or its price. Historically, the company has priced its operating system upgrades at $129 for a single license, $149 for a five-license package, although it departed from that practice with Snow Leopard when it priced Mac OS X 10.6 at $29 and $49, respectively.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
- The other Apple economy: $2B in devices on eBay
- Apple sends users scrambling for OS X Yosemite
- Long replacement cycle drags down iPad sales
- Apple unwraps OS X Yosemite public beta Thursday
- Apple grows Mac sales by 18% on the back of the MacBook Air
- Want an Apple watch? Just 3D print one
- What to listen for during Apple's earnings call today
- Mac sales will again outstrip industry average
- Apple, IBM spell out enterprise support for iPhone, iPad
- Timeline: How Apple's iOS gained enterprise cred
Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.
- Enable secure remote access to 3D data without sacrificing visual perfomance Design and manufacturing companies must adapt quickly to the demands of an increasingly global and competitive economy. To speed time to market for...
- Virtually Delivered High Performance 3D Graphics "A picture is worth a thousand words." That old phrase is as true today as it ever was. Pictures (i.e., those with heavy...
- Best Practices for Securing Hadoop Historically, Apache Hadoop has provided limited security capabilities. To protect sensitive data being stored and analyzed in Hadoop, security architects should use a...
- Top Tips for Securing Big Data Environments: Why Big Data Doesn't Have to Mean Big Security Challenges Organizations must come to terms with the security challenges they introduce. As big data environments ingest more data, organizations will face significant risks...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!