Yet another strain of malware targeted at Mac users has popped up this week to prove you shouldn’t disable the Gatekeeper feature baked into OS X. “OSX/Keydnap” disguises itself as an innocent text or image file, then installs malicious code onto your Mac.
A new Mac malware has been found in the wild that allowed attackers to steal data and install unauthorized apps on a compromised machine. What makes this malware different than other recent Mac malware, though, is that it breezes right past Gatekeeper… and the people behind it might have been gunning for the life of their malware victim.
The iPhone Dev-Team have confirmed that the latest version of Redsn0w is fully compatible with Apple’s new OS X Mountain Lion software. However, until it has been signed with a Developer ID, you’ll have to bypass Gatekeeper to use it.
In putting together the various features of Mountain Lion, Apple may end up encouraging business and enterprise customers to actually make their Macs less secure instead of ratcheting up security as some key Mountain Lion capabilities are intended to do.
There are a handful of technologies involved, but they center around iCloud and Apple’s requirement that apps sold in the Mac App Store support Apple’s application sandboxing technique.
Although Apple just announced OS X Mountain Lion last Thursday, Mac apps are already getting updated for compatibility with the next-gen OS. Mountain Lion is only available as a developer preview, but that hasn’t kept Smile from updating its popular PDF editor for the Mac, PDFpen, with Gatekeeper compatibility.
Smile makes great productivity apps for the Mac, like TextExpander. With this latest update to PDFpen, a Gatekeeper-friendly Developer ID has been added to help future Mountain Lion users install the app in a secure environment.
Mountain Lion’s GateKeeper feature is designed to improve Mac security by harnessing the power of the Mac App Store and through a new developer program in which Apple will offer Developer IDs to members of its Mac Developer Program. Those IDs will let developers digitally sign their applications so that Mountain Lion Macs can verify an app’s authenticity and security before running it.
While this may seem like a new approach and an extension of the Mac App Store model, it’s actually based on technology that has been part of OS X since the release of Leopard.
GateKeeper is one of the big new features in Mountain Lion. It’s designed to protect against malware by limiting what kinds of software gets installed on your Mac. GateKeeper offers Mac users three levels of security: Mac App Store purchases (which have been fully vetted by Apple), Developer ID apps purchased outside the Mac App Store that are digitally signed so your Mac can verify their authenticity via Apple, and apps from all other sources.
The GateKeeper model looks great from the perspective of an individual user or family – easy to understand and use while being fairly effective at leveraging Apple’s developer program as a security solution. How it will stack up in business and enterprise environments, where mass deployment are commonplace, may be a different story.
One of the big headline features in Apple’s new Mountain Lion OS is Gatekeeper, designed to keep malware and other nasties away from your computer. So is this another step towards App Store-only software on Macs?
The short answer is yes, it is. But it doesn’t have to be. Gatekeeper gives you the choice: do you want to stick to App Store-only apps, or be able to install anything from anywhere?
An International Herald Tribune op-ed piece weighs in on France’s legislative attempts to protect music consumers from Apple’s iPod/iTMS tie in:
“If Apple succeeds in hooking millions of consumers to the iPod and retains them, then it can be the gatekeeper of global culture.
That’s what irks the French. Apple could take the wind out of the French sails and permit others to encode music with their digital rights management. That may become inevitable, but Apple would like to delay it.”
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App developers put a lot of time and effort into preventing their apps from being cracked or pirated. But for every coder taking a step toward making an app more secure, there’s someone on the march to crack it. The integrity of any app is subject to an ongoing arms race.
The most popular and useful apps are the most likely to release the cracken (I’m so sorry), so finding out that a bunch of people have downloaded your app illegally can be worn as something of a badge of pride. But that’s cold comfort when you’re losing customers, so let’s take a look at a couple of the most likely app-cracking approaches developers should protect against.