Source: MplayerX Leaving Mac App Store
Source: MplayerX Leaving Mac App Store
Apple has had lots of success thinking differently when it comes to technology – creating beautiful, fun-to-use products in category after category. But Apple is no innovator when it comes to Mac security. In fact, the best hope for the company’s Mac security efforts right now may be to emulate Microsoft Windows!
Fortunately, Mac OS X Mountain Lion, scheduled to ship in July, does exactly that. On Monday, Apple released an update for Mountain Lion Developer Preview 4 that introduces a new Security Update system. The update was made available through the Mac App Store, according to the MacRumors blog.
With Mountain Lion, Mac OS X will check for security updates daily and give users the option of installing patches automatically or after restarting their systems. This common-sense security approach has been part of Windows for years.
Nevertheless, it’s a welcome addition in the wake of the infamous Flashback malware that compromised more than 600,000 Macs, roughly 1% of all in use, in April. The largest Mac infection ever occurred after Apple waited six weeks to release a patch for known vulnerabilities in the Java application platform. It seems Apple learned a hard lesson from that debacle.
Along with improving the update feature, Apple is making the connection between customers’ Macs and its servers more secure. Microsoft recently did the same with the connection between Windows and its update servers after the discovery that the Flame cyberespionage virus used the Windows Update tool to spread within a corporate network. Flame is believed to have been created in Israel to steal information from Iranian computer systems.
So, now that Apple is finally getting with the security program, Mac lovers can sleep well at night, right? Yes and no.
Consumers will certainly be better off with Mountain Lion, but businesses have yet to get what they need most – details about Mac vulnerabilities. Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst for vendor Lumension, says, “Apple seems to stay in the shadow of Microsoft when it comes to vulnerability management.”
While automatic updates are great for consumers, they work only for the smallest companies. Most businesses insist on testing updates before installing them to make sure the change doesn’t break anything. In addition, companies want to know whether the vulnerability being patched is important enough to warrant taking multiple systems down temporarily. None of that can be determined without lots of details, and Apple remains secretive when it comes to Mac vulnerabilities – even those being fixed.
“We have a long history of patches breaking things, and no one in the enterprise is simply going to turn on automated patching and walk away,” Henry says.
Apple has made security improvements to the Mac OS X kernel and to FileVault in Mountain Lion that are steps in the right direction for helping businesses. But experts say much more needs to be done.
Apple has certainly come a long way since the days – not so long ago – when it claimed the Mac “isn’t susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers.” However, the company has yet to demonstrate its trademark innovation in Mac security. That approach hasn’t hurt Apple’s computer sales yet, but the company’s luck may not hold forever.
The death of Steve Jobs has rocked people the world over, affecting everyone from the most hardcore Apple fanboy to Barack Obama to all those gathered outside the new Apple store in Shanghai. While Steve Jobs will be remembered for revolutionizing personal computing, the music industry, consumer mobile products, film animation and even fonts, the other side of his legacy is one of hyper-control: Apple’s proprietary software, the iPhone’s closed-off ecology, App Store censorship and the company’s labor law violations. If there was ever a company that capitalized on American consumers languishing in late-stage capitalism, it was Apple. And they did it by inventing “cool” products that we didn’t even know we needed – till we needed them.
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series we call Redux, where we’re re-publishing some of our best posts of 2011. As we look back at the year – and ahead to what next year holds – we think these are the stories that deserve a second glance. It’s not just a best-of list, it’s also a collection of posts that examine the fundamental issues that continue to shape the Web. We hope you enjoy reading them again and we look forward to bringing you more Web products and trends analysis in 2012. Happy holidays from Team ReadWriteWeb!
Apple’s Highly Objectionable App Store Censorship
When Jobs introduced the App Store in June 2008, porn was at the top of the not-allowed-here list of content. Some apps containing nudity snuck into the App Store, and were later pulled. Now only partial nudity seems to show up (e.g. Beautiful Boobs, Asian Boobs), especially if it only focuses on boobs.
Speaking of boobs, in June 2010 Apple once again censored “Ulysses Seen,” a web comic version of the classic James Joyce novel. Apple forced the creators to remove images that contained nudity before they would approve it as an iPad app. History seems to have repeated itself here: Ulysses had been put on trial in 1933. Apple ended up changing its mind after all, so the boob-filled web comic is available for download.
A few months after the App Store opened in June 2008, a great controversy erupted over an app called Podcaster that Apple decided to reject. It would have permitted people to listen to podcasts without downloading them first to iTunes; Apple worried that the app “duplicated the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes,” and thus saw it as a threat. Here is a longer list of types of apps that Apple rejected from its Mac App Store.
In September 2010, Apple’s iTunes social network Ping omitted Lady Gaga’s Tweets in which she protests anti-gay marriage legislation Prop8. But don’t worry, Apple still released an It Gets Better video, so they must be pro-gay folks, right?
Not long after that, in October 2010, Apple was awarded a patent that could stop people from sending “objectionable” text messages. It was filed in January 2008, and approved on October 12, 2010, and would allow certain content to be filtered based on parental controls. While it might seem like Apple is trying to keep its devices safe from porn, and therefore more workplace and school-friendly, this was still one step closer toward authoritarian control over the iPhone.
Additional apps were banned from the App store: In July 2011, Apple removed the ThirdIntifada app from its store because it “glorified violence against Israel.” Apple also banned the violent comic book “Murderdrome” from its App Store, based on the Apple SDK which states that “Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.” There were a few beheadings and ripped out limbs – but those aren’t unusual in the world of comic books.
Here’s perhaps the most telling App store ban of all: On September 13, 2011, an app called Phone Story, a game that also serves as social commentary, was banned from the Apple App Store only a few hours after its release. The answer as to why this happened was actually quite simple, and can be found in this elegantly written description of the game:
“Phone Story is a game for smartphone devices that attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform. Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe. Phone Story represents this process with four educational games that make the player symbolically complicit in coltan extraction in Congo, outsourced labor in China, e-waste in Pakistan and gadget consumerism in the West.”
Oh wait, that sounds a whole lot like exactly what Apple does! Yet Apple would never come out and say that. Instead, they said that the app was banned because it “depicted violence or abuse of children,” and “presented excessively objectionable or crude content.” This highly questionable act raises serious concerns over the freedom of information in a democratic society, playing into Apple’s “walled garden” approach to both its products, and the Web at large.
In 2008, the Advertising Standards Authority responded to two British TV viewers who claimed that a TV ad featuring a voiceover that said “all parts of the Internet are on the iPhone” was misleading because the iPhone didn’t support Flash or Java. The ad was found to breach CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence) and 5.2.2 (Implications), and could not be broadcast again.
Also back in 2008, a gaping security hole in Apple’s firmware posed serious problems for anyone who wanted to lock their phone. Instead of being able to lock the phone with a security code, anyone could bypass that by tapping the ‘Emergency Call’ button and then double tapping the homepage (if it was set to the default favorites).
Apple’s Inhumane Working Conditions
Apple outsources its labor to China’s most horrible factories, and abuses at one in particular stand out: The Foxconn Factor in Shenzhen, China. Here, some workers as young as 12 years old were forced to work for extended periods of time to meet increased demand for iPhones and iPads from all over the world. As popularity increased for Apple devices, workers were pushed to work longer. Workers ages 18-20 were being forced to work 60-80 hours of extended overtime every month in cramped, low-quality conditions. They were being treated like the very machines they were being forced to produce.
Inhumane treatment of workers first came to light when seven workers at the Foxconn plant committed suicide in May 2010. They were working on the iPad production sector. After these suicides, workers were required to sign a statement that says they are not allowed to commit suicide.
Image via Flickr user mailox.
Will you continue to buy Apple products? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.
Jon Mitchell gives you the skinny on how to liberate a squatter Twitter account. This and more in today’s Daily Wrap.
Sometimes it’s difficult to catch every story that hits tech media in a day, so we wrap up some of the most talked about stories. We give you a daily recap of what you missed in the ReadWriteWeb Community, including a link to some of the most popular discussions in our offsite communities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well.
Twitter handle squatters have your chosen name? If so, Jon’s method of liberation takes about a week, though there are some caveats. First, be a brand. A handle for your personal account isn’t going to be liberated any time soon. However, even small brands who can make a case that their brand is being impersonated can find success in claiming a squatter’s Twitter handle for your own.
From the comments:
AvidMobile — “Thank you! I am attempting this now to ‘liberate’ my company’s name on Twitter.”
If you had a button that you could press to pause time, make flying birds freeze in mid air, etc. what would you do with that opportunity? Some of us would catch up on all the links we’ve bookmarked as “to read” or favorited on Twitter. I don’t have a button like that, but a new iPhone app that launched today comes pretty close. (more)
When it comes to UI design, Apple’s iOS evolves pretty slowly. They rolled out one of the biggest enhancements to its mobile operating system this year with the launch of iOS 5. A radically redesigned notification system was the biggest visual overhaul and prior to that, there was the addition of folders in iOS 4. (more)
My tablet goes everywhere I go. I use it for work, for navigation, for music streaming in the car. It always has my work email, which I do not push to my Android phone for fear that it would never stop buzzing. I tweet from everywhere, all the time with it, read my Kindle and various news apps. (more)
This is a message that can’t possibly be repeated often enough: Good content trumps SEO. Don’t believe me? Fair enough, but how about the head of Google’s webspam team? In a short video today on Google’s Webmaster Central Channel, Cutts answers a question about SEO practices and whether “poor” sites with bad SEO are penalized by Google. (more)
Yesterday WordPress launched version 3.3, named “Sonny,” in honor of the great jazz saxophonist Sonny Stitt. The release has two goals: To make the editing process easier for return users, and help introduce new bloggers to the platform. (more)
Personal cloud storage is all the rage these days. Dropbox continues to be one of the most buzzed-about startups and its enterprise-focused counterpart Box is making moves toward the consumer market as well. For music files, Google, Amazon and Apple all offer cloud-based storage lockers and iOS allows syncing of other types of content via iCloud. (more)
There is already a well-functioning administrative body for handling intellectual property disputes between U.S.-based companies and parties in foreign countries. It’s the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), and if you’ve followed the many disputes brought by Apple against mobile phone makers, by mobile phone makers against Apple, and among IP portfolio holders such as Qualcomm and Broadcom, no doubt you’ve heard of USITC. (more)
A new Gartner Magic Quadrant report is available this week covering the public cloud computing vendors. Not surprisingly, AWS received top honors, although Terremark, Savvis and CSC were also praised. Bluelock, a smaller vendor, also got props. The report is very detailed in the usual Gartner manner and is a must-read for enterprise IT architects who are evaluating players in this space. (more)
Not even a year after launching, the Mac App Store has logged its 100 millionth download, Apple reported yesterday. The app directory, which went live in January of this year, gives developers a place to sell applications for desktops and laptops running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and higher. (more)
Not even a year after launching, the Mac App Store has logged its 100 millionth download, Apple reported yesterday. The app directory, which went live in January of this year, gives developers a place to sell applications for desktops and laptops running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and higher.
The Mac App Store takes the model Apple established with mobile and tablet apps for iOS and applies it to the desktop. Developers who opt to charge for apps get a 70% cut of the revenue, just as mobile developers do.
After the huge success achieved with the iTunes App Store for mobile devices, Apple decided to try a nearly identical approach for desktops. It’s not the only way to get applications onto Mac computers, but it offers a simple, well-organized repository for apps that have met Apple’s approval standards, complete with informative aggregate user reviews. It also simplifies the process of keeping apps up to date.
For developers, it provides a tried-and-true method of monetizing their work, if they’re willing to accept Apple’s revenue cut. From the looks of it, the platform is popular enough that, if nothing else, the Mac App Store gives developers increased visibility for their finished products. It’s become a resource for not only independent, lightweight desktop apps, but also for heavy-duty programs like Logic for audio-editing, Final Cut Pro for video and Photoshop Express.
The desktop app marketplace is not the only aspect of Apple-manufactured computers that recalls the user experience of using a tablet or smartphone. When the company released Mac OS X Lion earlier this year, it baked in several elements of iOS, from the mobile-style layout of apps in Launchpad to the multitouch gestures supported by the trackpad. Browsing the Web and scrolling through documents and menus on Lion feels more like doing so on an iPad or iPhone now, with a two-finger swipe up resulting in the page moving down (and vice versa).
Apple isn’t the only company merging the experience of using the desktop with that of smaller devices. Microsoft is taking things even further. The next generation of their PC operating system, Windows 8, borrows heavily from mobile design and user experience concepts. It features a touch-friendly UI, a new breed of HTML5-driven applications and a relatively seamless user experience between smartphones, tablets and the desktops.