A Flashback trojan, that affected more than 600,000 OS X users earlier this month, has industry experts discussing Apple's response to Mac malware and its future prospects on security related issues. Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of security company Kaspersky Lab, believes that Apple is "10 years behind Microsoft in terms of security." Citing the relative success of the Flashback infections in an interview with CBR, Kaspersky predicts that cyber criminals will progress to create "more and more" malware in the future.
Although, given Kaspersky's background, you could easily dismiss his claims as fear mongering to push sales of anti-virus software, he does speculate that Apple will face the "same problems Microsoft had ten or 12 years ago." Microsoft's Windows XP operating system suffered from some high profile security issues including MSBlast, which forced the company to issue a Service Pack 2 update with significant security-related improvements. Many believe that this engineering effort subsequently slowed down the development of future operating systems like Windows Vista. "They [Apple] will have to make changes in terms of the cycle of updates and so on and will be forced to invest more into their security audits for the software," says Kaspersky.
Apple appears to be heading in the right direction though. Mountain Lion, the company's upcoming OS X operating system due in summer, includes a new Gatekeeper feature that, by default, restricts applications from running unless they are from the Mac App Store or identified developers. There is an optional switch to enable all apps again, but it's clear this timely feature is designed to prevent malware from executing. Sophos security firm says nearly three percent of 100,000 people using its Mac anti-virus software were found to be infected with some type of OS X malware recently. If malware authors take advantage of holes in Mac App Store applications or developer signed ones, then Gatekeeper might not be enough to stem future malware outbreaks and Kaspersky's 10-year prediction might just come true.