The testing, being done as part of the U.S. government's National Information Assurance Partnership, will evaluate Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server on a series of common criteria used by a number of countries to evaluate the security features of various technologies. The evaluation allows governments and businesses to compare the relative security features of different products.
Submitting the operating system for testing could help give the Mac more clout in government circles, said Tom Goguen, director of worldwide product marketing for Apple's server software unit.
"It will help us get more exposure," Goguen said.
The testing process could take about a year. Apple needs to jump in now, however, as new regulations require U.S. government agencies to purchase IT products that have either been certified or are in the process of being certified. In the wake of of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the government has taken a muchat computer security.
Apple stands to benefit as Mac OS X, unlike previous versions of the operating system, is based on Unix, an operating system that is already certified under the common criteria and widely used in government systems.
The testing is not designed to find every possible hole in an operating system, but rather it evaluates and tests the security features against a common set of issues. Goguen likens the process to the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that govern corporate bookkeeping.
"GAAP specifies how you should do your books," Goguen said. "It doesn't really say you make money."