Apple Macs have a reputation for being immune to virus and malware attacks, but is that really true? The answer is no – in fact, the Mac operating system (OS X), although less prone to attacks than Windows, does have some areas of vulnerability. Macs actually tend to be targeted less often by malware developers for several reasons. Firstly, there are fewer of them in use than there are Windows computers, so any malware that targets OS X would tend to yield smaller results, making attacks less economically viable. Secondly, OS X is based on Unix, which has built-in security features. Finally, Apple have developed security measures that run in the background of a Mac, and the user is usually unaware that they are operating – Gatekeeper is one example. Gatekeeper prevents non Apple approved software from running on a Mac without user permission, so malware can’t creep in without you knowing about it.
Security flaw – Gotofail Bug
The bad news is that early in 2014, it was discovered that there was a flaw in the basic security of all Apple devices, which meant that if you used your Mac on an unsecured public network, such as those found in an internet café, your data could be intercepted and read. SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer to give it the full title) is one of the methods that websites use to handle sensitive data such as credit card details and passwords. SSL encrypts the connection between the server and the computer, so that if anyone is spying on the data and does manage to collect it, they can’t read it or make use of it.
In this case, an Apple programmer had inadvertently left in an extra ‘Goto’ command in the code for the SSL certificate validation, which meant it didn’t work properly. Anyone intercepting sensitive data from an Apple device would find that it wasn’t encrypted, and that the valuable information was available for hackers to use. This flaw was aptly named the Gotofail Bug. Apple very quickly corrected the problem on their various hand held devices such as iPhones and iPods, iPads etc. via updates to their operating systems (iOS), but took longer to correct OS X, despite being aware that the problem existed on Macs as well as the other devices. The Gotofail bug, along with several other vulnerabilities, was eventually fixed by the issue of OS X 10.9.2, which also contained improvements to stability, reliability, performance and enhancement of some of the integrated tools and features.
Keep your OS X up to date
The moral of this particular tale is that it is essential to keep your Mac operating system bang up to date, otherwise you may miss out on both performance enhancements and security improvements. A regular check for updates makes a great deal of sense – after all, they come free of charge. If you’re not sure how to proceed with OS X updates, or how to find the latest version, don’t forget that the ComputerMend technicians are experts in all things Apple, and they are there to help you.