Apple last week gave the world a glimpse of the latest installment of its Mac operating system, OS X. While the software is likely to garner attention for being closely aligned with Apple’s mobile technology and its iCloud platform, one area that shouldn’t be ignored is the operating system’s new security features.
Dubbed Mountain Lion, the newly introduced OS X version is expected to be released this summer. Apple isn’t shying away from the fact that many of Mountain Lion’s features are directly inspired by iOS, the mobile operating system powering the popular iPhone and the iPad.
The OS introduces a new messaging capability to Mac desktops and laptops that works similarly to the iMessage feature found on iOS. Mountain Lion also brings Apple’s Game Center to Mac computers, as well as Notification Center, Notes and Reminders – all of which have already been released for the iPhone and iPad.
The iCloud is sure to be a welcomed addition for Mac users. The cloud-based feature was introduced last year when Apple released iOS 5 for its mobile devices. Essentially, the service acts as a digital locker. Using their Apple ID, users can sync their apps and settings and access their music libraries, email, calendars, documents and more from any Apple device.
Finally, Apple has introduced a new security app called Gatekeeper to OS X Mountain Lion. Historically, Mac products have been renowned for their superior data security capabilities compared to PCs running Windows. But as Apple’s devices have become more popular, cybercriminals have started targeting them more frequently – necessitating new security measures to keep users safe.
Gatekeeper gives Mac users more control over which apps are downloaded and installed on their computers. The solution features three levels of security. At the most basic level, users can download and run applications from anywhere, as they could with previous versions of OS X. The middle option lets users download apps from the Mac App Store or those that have been created by identified developers.
The highest level of security is also the most restrictive, allowing users to download and run apps only found in the Mac App Store. Users are free to choose which level of security they want and can change settings with ease.
While Gatekeeper is certainly a useful tool, it should not be the only security measure that Mac users rely on. Especially if opting for one of the less secure levels – which do offer more flexibility – users would benefit by running some sort of antivirus for Mac software alongside Gatekeeper.
In the enterprise space, where Apple is gaining some momentum, employing data-centric security practices in addition to Gatekeeper would be a wise choice. Gatekeeper can reduce the chances of an employee downloading a malicious app, but it only goes so far. If, for example, an employee changes his or her security settings without a manager’s consent, the company could be in for a world of trouble.
Furthermore, Gatekeeper won’t protect data in transit. Even if one employee’s computer is clear of any malicious applications, there is no guarantee that a threat is not waiting in other parts of a company’s network or on a third party’s systems. A data-centric security model will ensure that information traveling through the infrastructure remains safe and out of the hands of unauthorized users.
Last May, Needham & Company analyst Charlie Wolfe revealed that Mac sales in the enterprise rose a “torrid” 66 percent in the second quarter of 2011, according to an Apple Insider report. As Apple’s momentum in the business sector continues to grow, Mac users will undoubtedly welcome the addition of new security features, but they must be mindful that further steps need to be taken.
Consumerization News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro