I really don’t understand what Dave Winer is talking about here.
Here’s an illustration of tech industry interference with RSS. That’s Sam Ruby, the lead of the Atom working group, an employee of IBM, trying to rewrite the rules of RSS 2.0. Do you understand what he’s saying? I don’t.
Dave links to this post from Sam Ruby, which, as far as I can tell, is simply a suggestion posted on a public mailing list about how RSS can move forward. I suspect that Sam has simply committed the ultimate sin of disagreeing with Dave at some point.
Leander Kahney has written a column on the latest spate of Mac malware scares, and generally – correctly – sums them up as “a load of crap”. People like me are interested in them because they’re novel, and because they (correctly) put to bed the idea that the Mac is somehow completely immune from malware (and yes, I have seen this argued).
However, I’m going to take Leander to task over one thing: his apparently lack of belief in the power of social engineering.
The Leap-A malware was a poorly-programmed Trojan horse that relied on “social engineering,” or trickery to perform its nasty function. There’s a simple way to protect against this kind of threat — common sense — and in testament to this, a lot of people didn’t fall for it.
I’m not going to catch a virus this way any more than I’m going to send money to the honorable Dr. Mobuntu, head of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Perhaps Leander ought to go read this page of stories about people who have been caught out by the “419 Nigeria” scam. Or perhaps he ought to look at the list of the most commonly reported Windows infections, all of which rely on fooling people into opening attachments. Malware writers use social engineering because social engineering works. With probably around 900 million PCs in use in the world, the majority of which run Windows, all you need is one in 10,000 people to be suckers to make an awful lot of money – or, if you’re seeding malware infect an awful lot of machines.
A couple of places on the net have linked to a claim by the makers of Podner, a product for converting video into a format ready for the iPod, that Apple has asked them to change the name as it violates their trademark.
Reading the actually emails Apple has sent, it seems like this isn’t quite true. In fact, Splasm asked for a license to use the Apple logo, which the company normally permits to third parties who make Mac software, and for the product to be listed on the Mac OS X Downloads site. Apple declined these requests, claiming that the “Podner” name wasn’t consistent with its guidelines for use of its trademarks. What Apple didn’t do was send any kind of legal letter requesting a name change – it basically just said “It’s too close to our trademarks – change it and we’ll be happy to list you and license our logo.”
But there’s a catch. Looking through Apple’s list of trademarks, I don’t see any mention of “pod”. iPod, sure. But not Pod, which is – of course – so generic that Apple would be nuts to trademark it. Also, I note that Apple is perfectly happy with other portions of trademarks being used – Logitech, for example, don’t seem to have a problem with “QuickCam”, despite “QuickTime” being an Apple trademark.
I’m kind of hoping that this is all the result of an over-zealous Steveoid thinking he’s “protecting Apple trademarks” rather than a serious attempt to extend Apple’s intellectual property to cover the word “Pod”. But, these days, when corporations seem intent on destroying the whole system of intellectual property by making it look ridiculous, you never know.
Heise Online has a further report on the Mac OS X/Safari vulnerability, claiming that it also affects Mail.
One user on the MacRumors forums notes that this makes it easy to write a worm that spreads via email. This would exploit the security hole (AKA “user friendly feature”) that Apple introduced to Address Book a while ago, where an application can quickly and easily read all your contact’s details without any user notification – something that I’ve been complaining is a potential security hole for some time.
George Ou at ZDNet has a round up about the critical flaw found in Safari yesterday that potentially allows a malicious web page to execute a shell script on your Mac. Thanks to JDB for the heads-up on this one.
What does it do? To quote George:
Heise online is reporting that a new critical vulnerability for Mac OS X has been discovered and it appears to have ramifications beyond the Safari brows (thanks to SANS and SunbeltBLOG for the link).� The problem is severe because a user simply needs to visit a malicious website and shell scripts with launch with zero user interaction!
Given that security holes in Mac OS X are nothing new, what really interests me is the reaction of Mac users in the comments. Most are, of course, concerned, sensible responses that either ask for details on how to fix it or ask how much of a problem it really is.
But there’s also the handful – and they ARE a handful – who either deny that it’s a “real” problem, point fingers at Windows users in a “you’re still worse, buddy!” way, or blame the messenger – whether they messenger is a security company, journalist or a user who’s published the details.
These modes of thinking leave me shaking my head. Why are people so reluctant to admit that an OS isn’t completely secure? Why are they reluctant to take additional security steps, like running in non-admin user mode, using additional security measures like Paranoid Android or – blasphemy! – using anti-virus software?
F-Secure finds another couple of Mac OS X worms: F-Secure : News from the Lab – February of 2006.
Today we received two more samples of Mac OS X malware.OSX/Inqtana.B and OSX/Inqtana.C are close variants to original OSX/Inqtana.A. About the only difference between variants is the technique by which the worm will start on the infected machine after user has accepted OBEX file transfers.The startup routines on Inqtana.B and Inqtana.C will most likely work also on OS X 10.3.Like Inqtana.A the .B and .C are locked to certain bluetooth addresses and are time limited to 24. February 2006, so they will not be able to replicate on any real environment and will work only in specially crafted lab. However it is possible that some virus author will create similar worms that are not intentionally limited, so please make sure that your OS X is up to date.
The importance of these isn’t that they’re likely to affect anyone in the wild (as F-Secure note, they won’t), but that it demonstrates the same pattern for OS X malware as Windows: one person writes, others create multiple variants.
A note for the trolls: F-Secure have no interest whatever in the Mac market. They don’t have a Mac product, and therefore it isn’t in their interests to “spread FUD” about the Mac.
F-Secure notes that it’s discovered the second piece of Mac OS X malware in as many days.
OSX/Inqtana.A is a Java-based worm that takes advantage of a hole in Bluetooth – one that’s already been patched in the latest round of updates. This is a common pattern in the Windows malware world, where a round of patches is often followed by the release of malware that attempts to exploit unpatched systems.
As F-Secure notes, this is unlikely to be a serious threat to Mac users. Not only does it use a hole that’s already patched, it has been written to time out after 24 February. There’s no indication that the author has made any serious attempt to seed it into the wild. However, the fact that it’s emerged so soon after OSX/Leap.A gives a worrying indication that there is more than one person out there writing malware that targets Mac OS X, using “proof of concepts” like Inqtana and Leap to learn how to write for OS X.
I expect more malware to emerge over the next few months, as authors take existing code and improve upon it – probably with malicious payloads, too. However, I also expect this to be far less serious on the Mac than Windows, because of “security through obscurity” factors making it harder to spread.
Take, for example, the most common method of malware transmission – sending copies to email addresses harvested from an infected address book. There’s nothing in OS X to prevent this (in fact, Apple makes harvesting addresses easier than is the case on Windows). The average Mac user’s address book probably contains no more than 10% Mac users, which means that there’s instantly only a 10% chance of hitting the right sort of target. That, alone, makes it much harder to spread effectively.
Writely gets better and better
A while ago, I wrote about Writely, the web-based word processor that includes some neat collaborative features, along with the ability to post to blogs and do about a dozen other things. The good news is that Writely just keeps getting better and better, adding features like word counting and comments. The bad news? There really isn’t any.
All of which raises the question of whether anyone actually needs a word processor on their hard drive anymore. I’m wedded to Word for my day-to-day work, and I like having control over my documents. Although I like having them available anywhere through a web interface, being able to edit them and post them to blogs as and when I want is also a great bonus.
Testing posting to Typepad from Writely.
Given that Microsoft has formerly announced Office 2007 I guess I can start talking about it. I’ve been on the beta programme for a while, and have been using Word 2007 as my main word processor on a day-to-day basis since then. Virtually everything that I’ve written has been in Word – so I guess I’ve given it a fair go. Other than Outlook (which I didn’t really get into until recently as it didn’t initially support Outlook Connector) and OneNote (which rocks) it’s only one of the Office suite that I’ve really used.
Overall, I think it’s great. The new interface takes a little getting used to, but it makes finding features in Word that you don’t use regularly much easier. It’s also much easier to explore the application if you’re so inclined and find out more about it. It’s gone from being an application that frustrated to one that’s much more playful – which is great.
It’ll be interesting to see if the MacBU follows the same “ribbon” interface model as the Windows Office team. While it’s great, it would break Apple User Interface guidelines in, oh, about a hundred different ways. Office for Mac also has traditionally had a few interface tricks of its own – the formatting palette, for example – that have made it easier to use than the Windows version anyway. While I think this release leap-frogs over the Mac version in terms of ease of use, it will be a hard decision to take to change over to this interface.