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A (Very) Brief History of (Mac) Time…

I came across a brief article on Forbes by Andy Greenberg on a bug in the beta version of iOS 7 that makes it possible to bypass its lockscreen in order to access (not to mention delete, tweet etc.) the phone owner’s photographs. Well, it’s not the worst news ever to come out of Cupertino: the beta is only available to developers, and now is a far better time to pick up on bugs like this than later on when half the world is migrating to the release version of the OS. 
 
However, once I was on that page my eye was drawn to an earlier sequence – referenced in the lockscreen article – on A Brief History of Apple Hacking. And brief it is: it starts off with a paragraph on Elk Cloner, which spread among Apple II users around 1983, and then – rather like one of those novel chapters that starts ‘The next 35 years passed swiftly…’ tells us that "After Skrenta’s experiment, Mac viruses seem to have taken a 24-year hiatus".
 
Well, apart from the fact that the Apple II wasn’t a Mac, and the further fact that I’m not convinced of Skrenta’s current status as a folk hero that ‘did no harm’, that 24-year hiatus includes a number of other Apple II viruses, the entire catalogue of pre-OS X Mac viruses(and other malware), and some OS X malware that preceded OSX/Leap (Amphimix, Renepo, and several rootkits). However, it seems Forbes considers OSX/Leap (from 2006) to be the next landmark malware. Well, I guess the sequence is supposed to be about hacking rather than about malware, and in fact includes summaries of exploits by Charlie Miller, George Hotz, and Comex, but I’m not sure why Leap (or Ikee, or the iWork Trojan) are considered to be particularly worthy to appear in this company. (Flashback also gets a mention, which I guess is fair enough, not least for the sheer volume of Flashback infections.)
 
As a starting point for finding out something about Mac attacks and exploits, the descriptions here are, in fact, not wildly inaccurate (though far from detailed, and it would be nice if they linked to sources of more detailed and comprehensive information). But as a source of information on Mac malware it’s astonishingly sparse, and it might have been better simply to omit malware altogether.
 
My good friend David Perry recently published an article about “The Apple Macintosh and System Security” that neophytes might find more interesting. In fact, I think it’s a revision of a previous article, but you might consider it worth a look.

While it could do with some updating, I put up a resources page on my Mac Virus site some time ago that includes further links and information.  

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