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Security

Say good-bye to Apple security?

SecureWave CEO Bob Johnson warns that the Windows-friendly Boot Camp software could bring bugs to Apple products.

    Apple Computer last month dropped the bombshell that its new Boot Camp software would let Macintosh computers dual-boot and run the Windows operating system.

    The initial reviews were very favorable. Mac lovers--arguably the eclectic hippies of the computer revolution--finally have a chance to run programs previously unavailable, including proprietary business applications.

    But users are now also able to bring all their favorite programs to the new MacTel platform. So it's time to be on the lookout for security stowaways--the viruses, worms and spyware that are coming along for the ride.

    The Windows platform (along with Internet Explorer) is clearly the most targeted and exploited operating system on the planet--and it's now crashing the relatively virus-free Mac party. Even Apple takes its own jab at Windows security with this warning from its Web site: "Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it'll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes."

    Here's the rub--Apple users run virtually no security software on their machines. Until recently, the platform was virtually virus-free, remaining unaffected by most major viruses. Reacting to the new virus infection potential, some industry watchdogs dismissed the threat. If you get a virus on your new Apple running Windows, their answer is to reboot on the Mac side.

    And then what? Don't ever go back to Windows? Shutting down the computer doesn't stop the flow of oxygen to a virus or any other threat. Praying that someone hasn't figured out how to get a virus over the Windows/Mac bridge certainly isn't going to work; and who knows if you will even be able to reboot once the virus has infiltrated your system?

    Here's the rub--Apple users run virtually no security software on their machines.

    This isn't just another poke at Microsoft's often lackluster security. Arguably there's another side of the coin here. While Microsoft's vulnerabilities might let intruders into the castle, Apple is giving them the keys to the kingdom and rolling out the welcome mat.

    Apple also happens to make the world's most popular music devices: iPods. Essentially large hard drives, they also have the potential to deliver all kinds of security threats into any environment, even Windows. Once a virus infiltrates the iPod, plug and play becomes plug and plague. Did anyone really believe the security nirvana for Apple would last? It's now more vulnerable than ever, and things can only get worse. As the Apple ecosystem of solutions continues to grow rapidly, so does the risk of malicious activity.

    Consider the larger issue. Security spending is skyrocketing as IT finds itself forced to pay to protect an ever increasing number of areas. The entry points for potential security threats have multiplied. Attacks and threats can come from traditional sources and from a whole new generation of interconnected systems and devices, ranging from B2B partner networks to phones, handhelds and personal entertainment devices, including iPods and digital cameras. And as wireless propagates, expect the endpoint security threat to quickly move to ATMs, vehicles and virtually any "interconnected" device passing signals and data back and forth with other devices.

    Like any software and device developer, Apple isn't immune to the viruses, spyware and more that make any computing environment--including the vaunted Mac--vulnerable. Mac lovers may celebrate the new MacTel platform, but will their enthusiasm wane if malware rears its ugly head?