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  • The Apple Attack Dogs Become Desperate

    April 2nd, 2008

    What can you say about a company that was, on a number of occasions, given up for dead or an eternal existence of irrelevance, but has come back big time? Well certainly, when it comes to Apple Inc., there’s always plenty of room for legitimate criticism.

    In fact, devoted Mac users are ready and willing to rag on the company for real or imagined slights, software defects, hardware defects, or what they perceive to be bad corporate decisions. Just check the comments on any self-respecting Mac Web site and even Apple’s own support forums and you’ll see what I mean.

    With a lot of things to call Apple to task about, it remains unfortunate that you read so many false claims that really serve to muddy the waters, and make it hard to find the truth.

    On Tuesday morning, for example, Mrs. Steinberg pointed me to an announcement of an upcoming story on Fox News about someone hacking an Apple note-book. Although this seemed to be a new report, I’m sure the basics sound familiar to you. Indeed, its turned out to be a belated retelling of that apparently successful attempt to hack a MacBook Air last week, the one that netted a security researcher $10,000 for his alleged two minutes of work.

    Since you’ve already read my comments about that stunt, I don’t need to repeat them here, except that it will surely be used as ammunition once again to advance the claim that Apple is fast becoming as vulnerable to malware as the Windows platform and that the dreaded infection is almost upon us. Probably as close as the bird flu, right?

    Well, they’ve been saying that every single time someone has produced a proof of concept virus in a lab, or, in the wake of Apple’s periodic Mac OS X security updates. It’s coming, but as the boy who cried wolf, it never seems to arrive.

    This isn’t to say that there won’t be an exploit that will spread across the Mac platform some day. But if it happens, it won’t be done because someone wants bragging rights. Today, malware is a source of profit, a way to take control of personal computers and use them to form botnets to spread spam, spyware and other nasty stuff in order to enrich to Internet criminals.

    At the same time, it’s also true that Windows Vista is evidently more resilient to infection too, but with hundreds of millions of PCs out there using older and far more vulnerable Microsoft operating systems that are easily infected, where’s the incentive to switch to Macs?

    Is the rapid growth of Apple going to change things? Not so far. I mean how much money has been lost as a result of a Mac OS X virus? Then again, where’s the multi-billion dollar class-action lawsuit against Microsoft for ignoring security for so long and selling customers hundreds of millions of copies of insecure operating systems and application software? How much have consumers and businesses lost as a result? How many companies have gone out of business because the money spent to cover PC security measures and clean up virus infections meant the difference between profit and loss?

    Shouldn’t the biggest ambulance chasing legal firms be hard at work even now to earn millions of dollars of fees from appropriately-filed lawsuits? I wonder.

    Of course, it’s not just fear merchants on the other side of the fence spreading misleading information about Apple. Alas, some of the people you expect to be Mac loyalists are doing the very same thing, and that’s highly unfortunate.

    At one time, for example, I was a huge booster of the MacFixIt site, because it contained loads of all-important troubleshooting information to help you make your Mac run as reliably as possible.

    Since they were acquired by CNET, however, the quality of their work has gone downhill fast. Instead of actually checking facts, and working with people who report problems, it seems they take a handful of anomalous reports and use them as evidence of major problems with Apple’s latest and greatest.

    In fact, just about every single Apple release in recent memory has been fodder for this sort of irresponsible treatment. What it seems to mean is that every single product Apple has released is fatally flawed, and that you should probably turn of your Macs and hide in a cave, lest it chase you down and beat you to death.

    Let’s get serious: Yes, software has bugs. Yes, it’s impossible to deliver products that are 100% trouble free. Indeed, there is no possible way for a company’s Q&A department to test for every possible installation scenario and make sure everything works reliably.

    In all fairness to MacFixIt, yes, they sometimes get it right. For example, a recent Apple Security Update was revised to address, among other issues, a conflict with Apple’s Aperture photo editing application. This was correctly reported by MacFixIt.

    But alleged problems with Safari 3.1, for example, sound downright eccentric. This isn’t to say that all of these reports are made up of whole cloth. No doubt there are some who have encountered difficulties, but rather than recommend the draconian solution of downgrading to Safari 3.0.4 by using a third-party hack to find a lone application installer in an Apple System DVD, they ought to help the affected users see if something else might be causing their grief. Whatever happened to simply emptying the Web cache, deleting a preference file, or ditching third-party system add-ons?

    Indeed, some of Apple’s worst enemies may be the very people who claim to be their friends.



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