OS X Mountain Lion Gatekeeper: Can it Really Keep Malware Out?

 
on February 21 2012 9:32 AM

OS X Mountain Lion has extended the functionality of its predecessor viz. Mac OS X Lion by adding over 100 new features to it. Gatekeeper is one of those news features and it provides a whole new security mechanism for Mac users.

According to Apple, the purpose of Gatekeeper is to protect users by helping them avoid downloading malicious and unauthorized application.

Gatekeeper is also seen as a virus-combating tool. Just like we have seen in Windows Defender. Previously, Windows OS was criticized for being vulnerable to malware and virus attacks. And now, Apple has also acknowledged that Mac OS X is no longer immune to malwares. Hence, the emergence of Gatekeeper.

There are three security settings in Gatekeeper. In the previous versions of Mac, users can download and install applications from any source. But Gatekeeper will now filter downloads, banning installation of any malicious program. With Gatekeeper, we have two more option. Primarily, we can choose to install apps from Mac Store only and while the second option allows application installation from both Apple Mac Store & certified developers sites.

We are best protected with installs from Mac Store only. As with the second option of allowing apps to be installed from certified developers, there arises a probability that malware can find its way into your desktop. How? A digital signature is given to registered users having Apple Developer account. However, hackers can also get a Developer ID certificate, which costs only $99. Which hacker cannot afford $99?

Also there is no guarantee that hackers cannot steal developer certificates.

Hence, there are complaints that Gatekeeper is increasing the expenses of software development for legitimate developers.

Gatekeeper is a good security mechanism but it cannot be called flawless. It will surely reduce the chances of any malicious intrusion into our system. Comparing it to LSQuarantine introduced in Snow Leopard as a security mechanism, which failed to properly detect and remove malwares, many people are expecting that a similar thing will also happen with Gatekeeper. Especially, if the malware is in an infected file on a USB drive or some network share drive, then the malware can go undetected.

With Gatekeeper, Apple has aimed big and but misses the target. However, it is not that Gatekeeper is completely useless. The security system will surely prevent users from accidentally installing uncertified application. But, it does not guarantee complete safety against malwares and Mac systems will continue to be vulnerable.

(Reported by Johnny Wills, Edited by Surojit Chatterjee)

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