Flashback-More Info

Steve Ragan of Security week tells us Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Flashback (but were afraid to ask)

The above just about covers it all. I’ll add that my earlier post: Apple shoddiness so easily fixed remains relevant but Apple has improved the documentation for the two latest updates:

About Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8 and  About Java for OS X Lion 2012-003 continue to have different names for the Snow Leopard and Lion updates and continue to link to files with uselessly unclear file names. (JavaForMacOSX10.6.dmg and JavaForOSX.dmg respectively). The good new is that now Apple includes this in both documents: “Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8 delivers Java SE 6 version 1.6.0_31 and supersedes all previous versions of Java for [OS version].” so, some forward motion there.

The key take away from this very real malware event on Mac OS X is this: It may be true that Mac OS X, when configured and managed properly, is less of malware risk than Windows. It’s clearly true that the Mac is not now, never was and never will be immune. Even iOS has not been immune if you acknowledge that some less than ideal behavior has been allowed in Apple-approved apps. Just because something is better doesn’t mean it’s perfect and informed users and well managed I.T. are a necessity no matter what. Apple would have been wise not to oversell the Mac’s historical advantage in this regard as a future guarantee of safety. I said that to Apple loudly and repeatedly for years. I said this to clients. Now the truth has been thrust upon us: No, the Mac is not the insta-p0wn Windows was. Yes, I’d still much rather use a Mac but the Mac’s not perfect and Windows is getting better. We all need to be smarter. We all need to realize we have a responsibility to protect ourselves and learn caution.

One final thought. I’ve picked on Intego a lot before.  The most aggressive of my posts about them being “When your protection tools can’t be trusted: Intego“and another later post where I made some significant technical errors Intego pointed out and I corrected.

In truth a side effect of the Flashback story for me is that my frustrations with Intego have crystalized nicely. I understand more completely why I express such frustration with them. I also fully acknowledge that they have made useful and meaningful contributors to the research and documentation of issues with Flashback for the Mac community.

What I said in the past was that they don’t seem to understand that as a vendor of security tools they need to be above moral reproach in the way they communicate.  This is a blog of a person. A person who happens to run a business but a person none-the-less. You don’t see these posts at my company site. Here, I’m a Mac IT and media production consultant blogging on a personal blog some might say has an attitude. That’s, in part, what a personal blog is for. A touch of the ‘tude. A bit more of the personality than corporate communications.

My clients will tell you when it’s business,  I may be gruff but I am always one hundred percent transparent about the issues involved in a problem or project and I never, ever, take a markup on services or products I specify for a job. I sell my opinion and my skill and my willingness to say “I’ll do what you ask but I think it’s bad for your business for these reasons.” and let my clients decide. This is a business value system I am proud of. It’s what I believe a good consultant strives to do. Help the client, be honest even if it costs you revenue. This attitude has, I hope, been a major reason I’ve stayed in business.

The concern I have with Intego I now understand better and  it’s well encapsulated in a quote from the article linked at the top of this post:

“Intego promoted the trial of their Anti-Virus product, while Sophos promoted their free Mac-based Anti-Virus. F-Secure, Symantec, and Kaspersky Lab also released tools. However, on April 12th Kaspersky had to temporarily pull its tool out of circulation, after a handful of the people downloading it reported that its usage could result in erroneous removal of certain user settings. Kaspersky fixed the tool and released an update a day later.”

Look what other companies did. Note even that Kaspersky made a mistake that they had to publicly acknowledge and then promptly fixed. Contrast the others with Intego. Intego promoted their commercial product as a fix and offered a 30 day free trial. A free trial you could only get if you gave them your email address. There’s a sort of sticky ooze all over that approach.

True, no company has to provide product or tools for free but a smart company, a company you want to do business with, might have recognized that there are more customers to be won if you provide a simple and basic free tool for one issue as a promotional loss-leader for the product they can, and should BUY to provide protection in the future.

What Intego did was say “Here’s a fix. If Apple doesn’t really solve this for 30 days, you’ll have to pay us.” and “Here’s a fix but we want your email so we can try and sell you stuff later.” and to me, that’s a tone-deaf approach.

A tone-deaf approach defined by a naked marketing agenda. Tone deaf marketing makes me feel like I can expect tone-deaf support. If I think I’m going to get tone-deaf support, I won’t trust a security tool provider. It’s just that simple. The past issues I’ve had with Intego all boil down to the same thing.  Dumb down UX at the expense of good practice.  Post alerts that convey more urgency than there is.  Do these things and your company doesn’t feel trustworthy.

Flashback is a real threat now. Now Intego can (and should!) enjoy revenue that comes with more global awareness of the truth that Mac users do need to be a lot more security aware than, in general, they had been. But don’t over-play that hand. Don’t miss a chance to be the best and most transparent.

If you sell security tools, you have to recognize that value of your product is defined by ‘trust’ and trust is, in large part, engendered with tone. So, is Intego useless? No. Are they buggy? No more or less than anyone else necessarily. What they are is tone-deaf and it’s just sad. They are a Mac company selling to Mac users and we need them to be better.


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