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4/14/2006
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Gartner Analyst Downplays Apple Boot Camp Security Issue

A partition separates the Windows software in a different file system, preventing the Mac software from being exposed to malware, a Gartner analyst said.

Don't worry about Boot Camp exposing Apple Computer Inc.'s operating system to malware, viruses and worms, says a Gartner Inc. analyst who insists Apple's move to Intel processors will not expose the system to security vulnerabilities, at least not today.

A partition separates the Windows software within a different file system, and this prevents the Mac software from being exposed to malware, said Gartner research vice president Michael Silver.

"I would have to write an attack on the Windows subsystem to affect the machine, and even so, it would target relatively few users," Silver said.

Microsoft's market-dominating Windows operating system is more susceptible to viruses and worms, Silver acknowledged, but having both operating systems on one computer won't make the Mac OS less secure.

In most cases, Windows won't have the ability to read the Mac OS partition, he said. Even if Windows could read the Mac partition, someone would have to write something that "makes Windows do something nefarious" to the Mac OS.

Not all analysts agree. Ken Dunham, the director of the rapid response team at security intelligence firm iDefense, isn't concerned about the vulnerability of Windows, rather that the Mac will have multiple operating systems.

Apple Computer said on April 5, it will support the installation of Microsoft Windows XP operating system on Intel-based Macs through a program called Boot Camp. The partition, or safety net, separating Windows and Apple operating systems will allow users to install Windows XP on a Mac in a dual-boot environment.

Users who need to run both Windows and Mac OS X applications would have to reboot repeatedly to switch between the two operating systems, Silver said. "It's not the environment most corporations want to work in," he said.

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