Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mac, PC, whatever

As we start using the same types of devices, the online criminals will find their lives becoming less complicated.

Macs are PCs running a different operating system. They have Intel processors in them these days, and have had for a around five years now, so there really is little difference.

You can even install Windows on a Mac. The only reason you can't install Apple's OS X on a PC is because Apple doesn't want you to. It is possible, though, with some hacking around.

Tablets can be a little different. For example, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is not based on an Intel processor. It uses an ARM-based CPU instead. As a user there's no way to tell, though.

This is because you're using Google Chrome most of the time, regardless of the underlying hardware and operating system. Apps are written in Java, which means that they are largely independent of the operating system (Android). It's about the browser and the programming platform, not the boring old operating system.

This is what Microsoft has been worried about since Netscape brought out its first browser. And Sun brought out Java. There were a couple of court cases about this.

There are some obvious security consequences of this. When people ran different operating systems on different hardware, the bad guys had to decide which were of most interest. If personal computing devices converge much more, and we all end up running Google Chrome and Java, that decision is going to become much less important.

But even if the attackers continue to hammer away at the operating system, there are significant similarities between some of the most popular. This makes life easier for the bad guys.

OS X is a UNIX-based operating system. So is Linux. As is Android. Their similarities mean that a single threat can affect more than one of these systems. We've already seen cases where old Linux threats are tweaked to work with OS X. The Register reported on one yesterday.