Feeds

Plug pulled on Mac hacking challenge

OS X security debate rages on

Top three mobile application threats

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. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Canadian taxman says hundreds pierced by Heartbleed SSL skewer
900 social insurance numbers nicked, says revenue watchman
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Burnt out on patches this month? Oracle's got 104 MORE fixes for you
Mass patch for issues across its software catalog
Reddit users discover iOS malware threat
'Unflod Baby Panda' looks to snatch Apple IDs
Oracle working on at least 13 Heartbleed fixes
Big Red's cloud is safe and Oracle Linux 6 has been patched, but Java has some issues
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.