The real Mac security threat isn't malware -- it's Apple

Apple took more than three weeks to acknowledge the Mac Defender malware and offer a solution. That's three weeks too long

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Ed Bott (again) reproduced a copy of an internal Apple memo dated May 16 instructing support techs to not acknowledge any instances of malware infections or help users in solving them. The instructions were summarized thusly:


  • Do not confirm or deny that any such software has been installed.
  • Do not attempt to remove or uninstall any malware software.
  • Do not send any escalations or contact Tier 2 for support about removing the software, or provide impact data.
  • Do not refer customers to the Apple Retail Store. The ARS does not provide any additional support for malware.

You can imagine how well that "see no malware, speak no malware" approach went over in the world outside the walls at One Infinite Loop. Bott also posted an interview with an anonymous AppleCare rep, who said most techs continued to help customers despite Apple's policy against it. They aren't all bots (or Botts) over there.

Yet it still took Apple another week to bite the bullet and actually help its customers deal with this problem. Bowing to public pressure, Apple changed its tune and issued official instructions on how to remove the Mac Defender nastiness from one's machine. It also promised to distribute an OS X patch in the next few days that would terminate the nasty little bugger with extreme prejudice.

This is yet another example of Apple being Apple -- which is to say, arrogant beyond belief and helpful only when forced into a corner. Something fundamental at Apple has to change, especially if the Mac OS and the iOS become the targets for malware many have predicted. Otherwise, all those smug Appletons are in for a world of hurt.

You can argue all day about whether Windows is more or less secure than the Mac OS or if this exploit is more about social engineering than software engineering. If you really want to, be my guest.

What I want to know is this: Why are so many people so loyal to Apple when Apple is so rarely loyal to them?

Got opinions about Apple's loyalty or lack thereof? Express yourself below or via email: Note to fanboys of all stripes: Please keep your whining to a minimum. Thanks.

This article, "The real Mac security threat isn't malware -- it's Apple," was originally published at Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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