Archive for the ‘Security’ Category


February 23rd, 2012 No comments

**********UPDATE*********** See below for a new update from Intego.

Intego reports another variant  of Mac Malware Flashback on their security blog here, and updated here.

Generally useful  advice and relatively little of the weaselly stuff I have bashed Intego for in the past.  My recommendation is to take the advice offered in those posts seriously.

Nevertheless, the Mac Security Blog post from Intego includes the following useful gem: “It is worth noting that Flashback.G will not install if VirusBarrier X6 is present, or if a number of other security programs are installed on the Mac in question. ”

Let me decode that for you: “We know some other security tools that would also protect you because this variant will not install if it finds these tools present on a Mac during an infection attempt but we’re not going to tell you. We’re not saying because we want you to be scared into buying our product rather than made to feel confident in our integrity and want to buy our product.”

Now, to be fair, they aren’t obligated to tell their customers or potential customers about competing products. That said, and my point all along with Intego is a company should be self aware enough to realize that selling security software comes with an expectation of maintaining the highest possible standard of conduct.

A smarter approach would mean they’d want  people perceive them as trustworthy and they’d say “We know these other security programs also offer protection against this variant.”

Why can’t they learn? The Mac community needs every good supplier of consumer security tools we can get.

Here’s a little more info than Intego felt a need to share: and As always with security issues, a holistic approach and getting yourself informed is best. In this case it looks like the presence of LittleSnitch may do it and, that ClamXav and Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition may also protect you from this variant of Flashback

Please, Intego, step up. Do better. I know you can. You just don’t seem to want to.

———-Update Below———-

Intego posted a useful and issue-free update. In short, with Java as an infection vector, Flashback no longer is truly a simple Trojan. Intego’s update usefully, simply and directly explains this with none of the ‘marketing weaseldom’ I have noted in the past. Good for them! Let’s hope this marks a new way of communicating for them.

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iOS, MacOS and the fear of the lockdown

February 16th, 2012 No comments

Apple’s announced Mountain Lion. There’s movement around the fear Apple will lock up Mac OS X the way it does iOS. Mountain Lion is either a reassuring step, or a troubling one. This piece by Dan Moren at Macworld does a great job of breaking it all down. Read it.

Personally, my take is that it makes this older post: “Smart Ways To Use The Mac App Store” all the more relevant.

[UPDATE 2.17.12: Another great link on Gatekeeper: From Panic Software’s Blog and a terrific piece on App Sandboxing from Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software:


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Adobe Reader Malware and Scareware Headlines

December 8th, 2011 2 comments

[NOTE: See Peter from Intego’s comments below. I am electing only to respond to his correct observation that I’d conflated two security issues in this post and amend the post accordingly to address the valid elements of his critique. See prior comment thread here: for why I feel it both important to make the corrections Peter’s comment demand and that I not engage in discussion with him about the remaining content of this piece. Note that the updates below continue to reveal my original error alongside the corrections marked between [UPDATED] and [/UPDATED].

When you sell ‘security products’ you have a a responsibility to exercise an over-abundance of caution in how you communicate with your customers and potential customers. Failing to do this makes you part of the problem and, again, I think Intego is falling far short of that standard.

The issue, as I see it, this time starts with the headline “New Version of DevilRobber Trojan Found In Three Mac Apps” of yesterday’s Mac Security Blog.

The headline implies you might find this nasty malware and be in jeopardy in software you’re likely to be using today. The headline implies typical Mac users are at present risk without an anti-virus application.

Au contraire mon frère, you’re not. As of now, you’ll only find yourself infected with DevilRobber.D if you use BitTorrent to try and pirate software.

Deeper still, the unwritten message is “you need our product to protect yourself” is just not true in this case. To be fair to Intego, this implication is a ‘sin of omission’ rather than a overt misdirection but, as I keep trying to say, I think the core problem is Intego falling short of a very high standard of communication and behavior that I believe comes with selling ‘security’ products.

Why do I pick on Intego? Aren’t all of these antivirus companies are basically a protection racket? Well, it’s pretty simple. Intego is a Mac shop and, having met and chatted with several Intego team members, I think they’re basically good people and they ought to do better. I expect this silliness from the “My super zippy PC TV ad” companies. I don’t expect this from a “Mac Company”.

Here are four simple truths Intego’s article either only indirectly addresses or completely ignores.

1) They found an ‘in the wild’ exploit on a BitTorrent tracker of pirate copies of three Mac titles.
2) Mac users who don’t use BitTorrent to pirate their software are, so far, immune as far as we know.
[UPDATED Points three and four below are not relevant due to my error pointed out by Peter in the comments]
3) Mac users who use Preview to read PDF’s rather than Adobe Reader are immune.
4) Mac users who use Adobe Reader can configure Adobe Reader to block the attack with a preferences setting now.

Worst of all, from a marketing perspective, (the likely motivation for the misleading headline and, indeed, the whole point of their blog) Intego don’t even seem to give themselves full credit for the fact that they already blocked it with existing virus definitions.

Here’s the same post re-written by me as if I worked for Intego:

New Variant of DevilRobber Trojan found in altered MacOS apps distributed via BitTorrent

Intego’s malware researchers have found a new variant of the DevilRobber Trojan horse, which they first discovered in October. The latest variant – DevilRobber.D (there have been two others in between) – has been spotted in three deliberately altered Mac applications (Writer’s Café, EvoCam and Twitterrific) distributed via BitTorrent trackers.

The original developers’ distributions are not infected. (The files you can download directly from the developers’ sites are clean.) The malware has only been found in altered files distributed via BitTorrent trackers. If you use these applications, and have purchased them from the developers, you do not have infected copies of these applications.

[UPDATED *** As Peter from Intego correctly pointed out in the comments, I foolishly conflated the DevilRobber Trojan with another security issue with trojans distributed via PDF and exploits of the Adobe security flaw in Reader. The Links below relate to the PDF issue and *NOT* to DevilRobber]
For more information about this exploit please see:
Adobe’s Security Bulletin:
Topher Kessler’s article for C|Net’s MacFixit:

For more information about this exploit please see:

VirusBarrier X6 definitions addressing the previous versions of the DevilRobber Trojan successfully blocked this new variant (and two others) but we have updated our definitions to specifically block this new version as well.”

If the headline is too long or insufficiently sensational for your marketing guys to sign off on, split it up: New Variant of  Mac DevilRobber Trojan Found and then lead the article with “Three Mac Apps altered to payload the Trojan have been found on a BitTorrent Tracker”.

My prior rant re: Intego’s behavior is here:

[UPDATED Due to my conflation of DevilRobber with the Adobe Reader vulnerability and this story: the irony is far less thick in this post but PLENTY thick if you look at that link.] (The irony that that last rant addressed a behavior that socialized users to trust a file described and badged as a PDF that was really an application and that now we’re seeing an actual PDF Trojan is not lost on this writer.) [/UPDATED]

Here’s the deal. If you sell security products, I think you have to:

– Tell the truth about the level of risk.
– Tell the truth about what your product can do to protect from specific attacks.
– Tell the truth about what alternative measures users can take to mitigate risk.
– Fall all over yourself to protect the reputations of legitimate developers unless and until they distribute infected files or ship software that creates an attack vector.
– Be ‘low key’ about how you characterize risks so users can be confident in the maturity of your products and your business practices so they either buy your products (good for you and your customers) and follow good practices to reduce their risks even without your products (good for everybody).

[UPDATED Again, due to Peter from Intego pointing out my conflation of two issues, this not relevant to the post though still true.] As a final note, yeah, it sure seems like Flash and Acrobat are getting exploited pretty regularly lately. Maybe not leaving these plug-ins enabled in our browsers would be a good idea. [/UPDATED]

– Jon

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