More Security Worries for the Mac?

Arik Hesseldahl

How secure is your Mac? Perhaps less so than most would like to believe. Last month a Swedish Mac enthusiast site set up a Mac Mini as a Web server and invited the whole hep world of hackerdom to try and take it down by gaining remote root access in order to prove the Mac’s superiority on the security front. As reported here by ZDNet’s Australian outpost, the competition was over after 30 minutes. A hacker who asked only to be identified as “gwerdna” said he used “unpublished exploits” to gain root access to the machine. (For those who don't know -- root is the highest level of access you can get on a Mac or any Unix-based computer. Once you've achieved root access, there is nothing you can't do -- good or bad -- on that computer.)

At least a few security experts I’ve heard from today are speculating that this might have been an old vulnerability that has more to do with Free BSD – the Unix variant that forms the software underpinning of Mac OS X – than with Mac OS X itself.

This news is coming on the heels of a kerfuffle a few weeks ago – one which I thought was completely overblown -- involving some Trojans and worms that targeted the Mac. Those were no big deal. Word of flaws in the Mac’s armor that could give an attacker root access? That’s something else entirely.

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