A tireless collaborative effort by the iOS Jailbreak Dream Team (a group comprised of members from the Chronic-Dev Team and the iPhone Dev Team) has yielded Absinthe 2.0--a jailbreak utility for iOS 5.1.1. While some appreciate being able to break out of Apple’s “walled garden”, the fact that iOS devices can be rooted poses a significant security risk.
A press release for Absinthe 2.0 explains the concept of jailbreaking: “iOS jailbreaking, or simply jailbreaking, is the process of removing the limitations imposed by Apple on devices running the iOS operating system through use of custom security exploits. Jailbreaking allows users to gain elevated access to the operating system. Consequently it also allows users to download additional applications, extensions and themes that are unavailable through the official Apple App Store.”
Those who choose to jailbreak their own iOS devices to get around Apple restrictions or limitations do so with conscious intent and understand the risks involved. A jailbroken iOS device is also able to install apps from outside of the Apple App Store which have not been vetted by Apple and could contain malicious code. Apple will not support jailbroken devices, so you’re on your own.
Microsoft released a total of seven new security bulletins for May’s Patch Tuesday. Four are rated as Important, and the other three are Critical, but two in particular are getting the most attention: MS12-034 and MS12-029.
MS12-034 fixes 10 separate vulnerabilities spanning a range of Microsoft products including Windows, Office, .NET Framework, and Silverlight. It’s unusual for Microsoft to lump so many products together in a single security bulletin or patch.
Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, provides some background to explain the unusual patch in a blog post. MS12-034 is the result of an effort by Microsoft to seek out other products using the same flawed code exploited by Duqu. This patch knocks out all of the other instances, and addresses a variety of other security issues in the affected products at the same time.
Text messaging is the most common non-voice use of a mobile phone. There are trillions of text messages received around the world each day, and an increasing number of them are spam, or phishing attacks of some sort.
Cyber criminals are good at identifying lucrative markets and targeting weak links. Users are conditioned to recognize suspicious messages and security threats on PCs, and there’s generally security software in place to detect and prevent attacks. But, many people assume mobile phones are inherently safe, and don’t realize that malware and phishing attacks are a concern for mobile devices as well.
Mac users have been forced to face a cold reality lately—the days of security through obscurity are over. Macs have traditionally been off the radar, and relatively safe just by virtue of being Macs. Now that malicious attacks are targeting Macs, users need to defend themselves. Avast is stepping up to offer its popular free antimalware software for Mac OS X.
No, malware is nowhere near the scourge for Mac OS X as it is for Windows. I am not saying the “sky is falling”, and I’m not declaring a “Macpocalypse”. But, the reality is that malicious attacks exist, and the threat will continue to grow. Macs have been gaining in market share, and the growth rate of Mac is outpacing the growth rate for Windows-based PCs, so the operating system has captured the attention of malicious developers. It’s time to recognize that, and implement security tools to defend against attacks.
Even if you truly believe that malware is just not an issue for you on a Mac, there’s still good reason to use security software. A recent report found that many Macs are like the “Typhoid Mary” of the Internet. One in five Mac systems was found to be carrying malware that has no impact on Mac OS X, but can still be shared and pose a risk to Windows PCs.
Kaspersky and Symantec both reported dramatic declines in the number of Macs infected with the Flashback malware this past week. However, Dr. Web--the source that discovered the threat in the first place--claims the number of compromised systems is still going strong, and may even be growing.
Apple responded to the malware attack with a patched version of Java, and a subsequent update that removes the Flashback malware. Apple also implemented a process to proactively disable Java if its not actively used--a brilliant way of reducing the exposure to attack by following established security best practice and turning off or removing services and tools that aren’t necessary.
Following the moves by Apple, there have been reports that the number of systems infected with Flashback malware has dropped to 140,000, or even as low as 30,000. However, Dr. Web claims the number is still somewhere around 650,000, and that unique evasion techniques in the malware, combined with flaws in the methodology of the security vendors, is yielding false data.
Better late than never? Apple has released the third Java update in a week for Mac OS X, and this one contains the tool to remove the Flashback malware from infected systems. Beneath the belated fix to help users eradicate the threat, Apple has introduced a proactive approach to reducing security risk, and other vendors should take note.
This first couple of Java updates already patched the underlying vulnerability. The latest version doesn’t address any new vulnerabilities—it takes care of the destruction left in the wake of the vulnerabilities in the first place, and proactively reduces the exposure to risk for Mac users.
The latest Java update from Apple removes the known variants of the Flashback malware from infected Mac OS X systems. It also automatically disables Java if it has not been used during the previous 35 days. Once disabled, users have to manually re-enable Java in order for Java applets to run again. That means that malware attacks like Flashback would be unable to automatically execute and compromise Macs that don’t regularly use Java.
Unless you’re some sort of adrenaline junky like Jeb Corliss, you know better than to engage in certain risky behaviors like BASE jumping from the Empire State Building. According to a new survey from Webroot, though, a majority of people now consider online activity to be a greater risk than real-world activities.
The Internet is a part of mainstream culture, and users—both consumers and business users—perform a wide variety of tasks online that can potentially expose them to risk. Sharing personal information on social networks, accessing bank accounts, purchasing goods online, sending email, and other activities can put sensitive identity information and financial data in jeopardy if not properly protected.