By Greg Mills
Long known for foot-in-mouth statements, pundit John C. Dvorak has shown his utter contempt and envy for the Apple platform once again. In an article published by “PC Magazine” he actually roots for the recent Mac Defender trojan.
The notion of “misery loves company” and basic juvenile, visceral envy come to mind. Long known to open his mouth only to change feet, Dvorak’s mindless logic is typical of PC fanboys who hate Apple.
The court jester of tech thinks it is about time Mac users suffer the constant battle to keep their computers working the Windows world have been fighting since viruses, worms and other assorted malware came up years ago. Dvorak states that this should wipe the smug smile off the faces of Mac users. Gee, what business is it of Dvorak’s that I have had numerous Mac and Apple devices over the last 25 years without a single virus, worm or trojan without ever installing virus protection software?
The prevalence of the Windows platform has, unfortunately, created an atmosphere of general acceptance that the Internet is a dangerous place and that your computer works only due to an electronic suit of armor. Paying for security software to overcome built-in weaknesses in your operating system is so very Microsoft. I have told my 11-year-old to be sure to wash her hands after touching a PC as to not contaminate anything Apple. While this is laughable, the notion is symbolically true.
At least 90% of the time, when my Mac crashes, it is a Microsoft program, such as Word, that takes it down. Keep in mind, I have about one Mac OS crash a year. The iPad has slightly more apps quit, but that isn’t as likely an operating system malfunction as an app bug.
I have been reading the book “Geekonomic: The real cost of insecure software.” This book was written by David Rice, the vice president for software security recently hired by Apple. In his book, Rice makes the case that writing buggy software is cheaper than writing secure software.
The return-on-investment involved in writing software is only paid back when you sell the program. Working out the bugs before you launch software is a business decision with profound consequence felt by the consumer, as unscrupulous software bandits line their pockets. ( I hope Ballmer’s ears are ringing )
There are two basic approaches to the software business: sell half-baked software to the general public and then patch the defects when the program crashes or problems show up. The second approach is to do a better job of writing and debugging the software in the first place and have a cadre of experienced beta testers test the software before general release. This business practice of letting the consumers debug software certainly applies to Microsoft; they commonly sell crappy software and saddle the users with endless patches to make it work.
Rice makes the observation that the actual cost of insecure software is much more than anyone thinks. The PC culture of expecting buggy software leads to the sort of insanity that would make a person like Dvorak make such an outrageous statement. Rather than touting the benefits of the relative security of the Apple platform, Dvorak cheers the barbarians.
The security disparity between platforms can be addressed in a number of ways. If we could find and severely punish the authors of malware, the problem would be solved at its source. This needs to be done much like the piracy of 200 years ago was eradicated by the great nations of the world deciding to capture and summarily hang the pirates, no mater where they hid. The piracy of today that has arisen in recent years only survives in the absence of a serious effort of the world’s governments to crush them.
If the naval forces of the world’s leading nations regularly delivered pallets of dead pirates that had been summarily executed to shore for burial, piracy would go away quickly. With pirates reaping millions of dollars in ransom living the good life, the incentive is to become a pirate, not to fear for your life by becoming a pirate. A similar hang ’em high program for malware writers would similarly reduce the problem dramatically.
Dvorak’s mindless cheering the notion that leveling the playing field by writing malware for the Apple platforms is a good thing serves only the virus protection software companies and the authors of malware. There not being a secure platform is good just how, Mr. Tech Jester?
The bottom line is that you pretty much have software on your computer that you choose to load. Internet downloads for the Windows platform have been estimated to be magnitude of one infected download out of 14. The MacDefender malware is restricted to those who falsely fear malware on the Mac platform and choose to accept a malicious bit of software that pretends to be protection from what it in fact is. A fix is coming from Apple within days, and the lesson to users is to not fall for questionable downloads, period.
At the end of it all, Macs are computers that run on software that, despite every effort by Apple, can be adversely affected by intentionally written malware. The old free enterprise mantra, in the Latin, “caveat emptor” (“Let the buyer beware”) applies to computer users who surf the Internet. The decision to use an insecure platform is as much a punishable decision as downloading malware.
Will I finally buckle under and load Mac virus protection beyond Apple’s great ongoing efforts to protect their platforms? Not yet, court jester. Ironically, those who doubted the security of the Mac platform are the very ones who are suffering from the MacDefender problem. PC converts to the Apple platforms are actually trained by past bitter experiences to not trust their platform authors. I pretty much trust the software team at Apple to do the right think as far as malware is concerned.
The recent location security “bug” in the iOS platform, in my mind, could only have been intentional, but once the issue was made public, Apple fixed it quickly and, hopefully, securely.
That’s Greg’s Bite for today out of Dvorak’s hide.
(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He’s also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustrySolar.com Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg’s art web site at http://www.gregmills.info He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org )