News
News
4/6/2006
07:20 PM
50%
50%

Mac Users May Meet Windows Threats

Some security experts worry that Mac customers who opt to run the Windows operating system will need reminding to keep up with all the various viruses and other threats.

Users installing Windows XP on Intel-based Macs face some special security issues, a security expert said Thursday.

By applying Apple Computer's just-released Boot Camp, Mac owners can now create a dual-boot system that runs either Mac OS X or Windows XP. It's the latter that worries Ken Dunham, the director of the rapid response team at security intelligence firm iDefense.

"When a Mac is booted into Windows, it can be attacked by the same [exploits] that threaten any Windows PC," said Dunham. "If you're running an unpatched version of Windows XP on any box, it'll be hacked pretty quickly."

Of the two operating systems, "naturally with Windows you're more at risk," said Dunham. Neither Mac OS X or Windows are invulnerable to attack -- the former was the subject earlier this year of its first zero-day bug -- but the latter is, by far, the one that draws most attacker attention.

But it's not the vulnerability of Windows that concerns Dunham; it's the fact that the Mac will have multiple operating systems on its hard drive.

"It's the best of both worlds [having Mac OS X and Windows] on one machine, but the user also has to manage two OSes."

Typically, argued Dunham, people are less diligent about updating their secondary system, whether that's an at-home machine (when the primary is at the office) or a second computer used by children. The same applies here.

"This dual-boot may create another set of Windows installs that are secondary systems, ones that might not be patched as often as they should be," Dunham said.

On the bright side, an attack on the Windows XP part of the Mac probably wouldn't have an effect on the Mac OS X partition. "It actually appears to be a pretty good design," said Dunham, who noted that while the Mac OS can read (and depending on the formatting of the Windows partition, also write to) the Windows volume, the opposite's not true.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.