Apple has removed comparisons between the security of Macs vs. Windows PCs from its Web site, and now it’s time to read the tea leaves, since the likelihood that Apple will officially explain the changes is roughly the same as Tim Cook being spotted in public wearing a Windows Phone t-shirt.
Where Apple previously proclaimed that “a Mac isn’t susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers,” it now asserts that “built-in defenses in OS X keep you safe from unknowingly downloading malicious software on your Mac.” Apple’s oft-voiced position that OS X “doesn’t get PC viruses” now reads “It’s built to be safe”.
That’s not all. Apple has also altered a Web page published in February to outline the capabilities of Gatekeeper, a new OS X Mountain Lion security feature, deleting a part that used to read: “While malware is one of the biggest security challenges on personal computers, it’s hardly an issue on a Mac. And Apple is working hard to see that it won’t be.”
While subtle, the changes are telling. Apple’s “Macs are more secure” talk has irritated security researchers for years, and a good many believe it is the Mac’s smaller market share — and not its inherent security — which makes it a less attractive target for malware authors.
With the emergence in April of the Flashback botnet, which infected somewhere in the neighborhood of 650,000 Macs at its peak, some security researchers feel it would be irresponsible for Apple to continue using security in its marketing of OS X.
While Apple is still touting security as a feature, removing Windows comparisons from the discussion suggests a change of strategy. Apple may simply feel that the long-running Windows vs. Mac security debate has run its course, and that Macs are so obviously more secure that it no longer bears mentioning.
But consensus opinion among the security experts CRN spoke with recently is that Apple is altering its security messaging as part of a broader push to capture a larger share of the enterprise market. Apple’s security bombast might play well with consumers — as evidenced by the success of Apple’s Get a Mac campaign — but it is not necessarily going to sway CIOs that want details on how, exactly, OS X is more secure.
Apple’s release last month of a 20-page document that explains the ins and outs of iOS security is further evidence of its desire to court businesses. While the document contained nothing security researchers didn’t already know, it was nonetheless a surprising and symbolic gesture from a company whose CEO recently vowed to “double down on secrecy.”
Apple is also sending a representative to speak about iOS security at Black Hat next month, in what will be its first official appearance at the conference.
Apple will always be a secretive company that marches to its own beat, even when it comes to talking about security. That said, Apple’s recent security moves could reflect an awareness that it will need to change its tune in order to get a bigger share of the enterprise market.