Feeds

Plug pulled on Mac hacking challenge

OS X security debate rages on

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

A University sysadmin in the US who set up a Mac hacking challenge reckons the project established the security credentials of the operating system despite having to pull the plug on the contest before its scheduled end. Dave Schroeder, a senior systems engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, set up his challenge in an attempt to prove an earlier Hack-My-Mac contest was too easy.

A contestant in the first (Swedish) Mac hacking challenge claimed victory after breaking into a test system in just 30 minutes. But every potential hacker had been given a head-start by been given an account to the system. This meant hackers needed only to find a way to elevate their privileges to super-user status, and remove files, before the could claim victory.

Schroeder's contest, by contrast, invited contestants to breach a PowerPC Mac mini (running Mac OS X 10.4.5 with the latest security updates) which was connected to the net with open SSH and HTTP ports and two user accounts, neither of which were handed over to potential attackers. This test system Information Week withstood 4,000 log-in attempts, SSH dictionary attacks, numerous scanning probes and two denial-of-service attacks in the first day of the challenge before Schroeder was forced to pull the plug on the challenge on Tuesday after just 38 hours and days before its scheduled conclusion.

The sysadmin had failed to clear the challenge with university authorities, who told Schroeder to kill it. Nonetheless Schroeder felt that the hacking contest proved his point about Mac OS X security despite its premature conclusion.

"Mac OS X is not invulnerable - it, like any other operating system, has security deficiencies in various aspects of the software," Schroeder wrote, Security Focus reports. "However, the general architecture and design philosophy of Mac OS X, in addition to usage of open source components for most network-accessible services that receive intense peer scrutiny from the community, make Mac OS X a very secure operating system."

The security of Mac OS X has been under intense scrutiny of late because of recent attempts to create malware targeting the platform and, shortly thereafter, a critical (and for a few days unpatched) vulnerability in Apple's Safari web browser. Disinterested observers judged all three threats to be far less serious a practical danger than first impressions might have suggested. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.