EMET also arrived in Vista, as an add-in to help prevent 0day attacks.
It contained memory protections, digital certificate handling improvements like certificate pinning , early warnings, and improved reporting to both the OS admin and Microsoft so they could identify the technical specifics of different new attacks. EMET expanded to over 15 separate mitigations, and its proven protection became so recommended that Microsoft built it into Windows 10 with the Creators Update release as Windows Defender Exploit Guard.
This is a common attack used by malware to compromise a system, but the XD creates a barrier of sorts. Windows Once an OS boots up, the most important security feature it can have is in limiting who has allowed, authorized access to it. This is controlled by a logon authentication security feature and might include passwords, biometrics, digital certificates, and other multi-factor devices, such as smartcards and USB authentication tokens. It has also become especially important to protect logon credentials after the authorized party has logged on, temporarily or permanently, whether stored in memory or on disk, to stop various credential theft and re-use attacks.
Windows 10 has strong support for broad password policies, and for biometric, multi-factor, and digital certificate authentication. It supports face and fingerprint recognition, which allows for quick and easy sign-ons, but behind the scenes uses secure digital certificate technology. Users can still use a password or a shorter PIN, although each of these can only be enabled as an option after setting up more traditional authentication methods such as password.
Windows Hello also works with enabled applications, such as Dropbox and multiple password managers. Microsoft, worried about the theft of credentials in memory, created Virtualization Based Security VBS , where logon credentials are secured in a hardware-based, virtualized subset of the operating system that is nearly impervious to malicious attacks.
Credential Guard defeats many of the most critical and popular password attacks. Hackers have long been using stored service credentials to take over computers and networks. Both are new types of service-only identities that, once initiated, take over the complex task of randomizing and periodically changing service account passwords so that if stolen, are of less value across an enterprise. Apple macOS: Firmware passwords can be set to prevent choosing anything but the designated startup disk, and a firmware password also ignores the standard startup key combinations. Be aware that both FileVault and firmware password protection requires the use of a strong password; if a weak password is used and then guessed, the entire contents of the drive will be exposed to anyone with the proper credentials.
The iMac Pro is the first to ship with the T2 chipset, and specific features can be modified using the new Startup Security Utility. This utility was designed to make it easier to secure the Mac against unauthorized access by combining firmware password protection, Secure Boot, and External Boot options in a single interface. From here, you can set how strict the Mac is about using the operating system and installing updates and third-party software.
Windows Once hackers or malware have established a foothold on a system, they usually try an additional privilege escalation attack to obtain top administrative access. If a user logs on with privileged credentials, UAC, splits their access into two tokens: one privileged and one non-privileged. The non-privileged token is used by default with all applications and tasks unless the user is prompted for elevation or if they run one of the many predefined tasks requiring elevation.
Today, most users run in UAC-enabled mode without noticing an overly burdensome number of interruptions. With their username and password, they can install apps or make changes to settings that affect the entire system. More on this later. Microsoft has long had file and folder encryption Encrypting File System , but added volume encryption with Vista using BitLocker. The ultimate encryption keys can be stored on the TPM hardware chip, on the network, on a removable media device, and other options.
Later Windows versions added options and encryption features, including the ability to encrypt and require encryption on removable media using BitLocker To Go. With or without requiring encryption, administrators can configure what removable media devices are allowed to be installed and used.
Apple macOS: As mentioned earlier, FileVault 2 can be used to encrypt startup disks to prevent unauthorized access. The Mac can be set to prevent booting to external devices via firmware passwords. In concert with a firmware password — which prevents booting with modifier keys, potentially bypassing the startup disk — FileVault 2-encrypted disks locked with a strong password are virtually impossible to crack. Recovery keys can be used if the storage device is moved to another Mac, or if users with unlock privileges available.
The native Disk Utility app can be used to encrypt external drives, or create encrypted disk images. Windows 10 : Windows has many features that provide integrity to the OS and user data files. If anything deleted a system critical file, SFP ensured that Windows would immediately replace it with a known good copy. Windows Vista introduced a version of SFP known as Windows Resource Protection, which also protected critical Windows registry settings, although what was protected and automatically replaced diminished overall.
With file and registry virtualization, most of the OS critical files and registry settings are protected by virtualization so that if an unelevated user or process tries to modify them, the modification will instead happen to an additional, virtual, copy of the file or registry. This prevents unelevated users and malware from modifying system-critical files and registry settings as easily as they did before.
Apple macOS: Introduced in El Capitan in , the security feature called System Integrity Protection SIP addresses the problem with unrestricted root access if malware or hackers gain access to the account credentials. SIP protects the contents and permissions of certain important files and directories, even from actions performed as root. SIP protects against running unsigned kernel extensions, and it protects processes against code injections and real-time modifications to code without specific entitlements. Only properly signed apps can modify the protected system directories, and those apps must be tied to a developer ID and with entitlements signed by Apple.
Windows Starting with Windows Vista, Microsoft no longer tried to invent its own encryption ciphers and algorithms. Instead, it deployed respected cryptography e. Upon startup, the T2 chip takes over, and using its hardware-encrypted Secure Enclave to compare keys, loads the bootloader, ensures its validity, validates the firmware, and then validates the kernel and drivers that allow the Mac to run. Windows Every version of Windows has had multiple ways to backup and restore files.
It allows individual files to be restored from previously saved versions, if covered by the Previous Versions saving process. Starting in Windows 8, a backup-and-restore feature called File History is available. While not a complete system backup, File History is often just what users need, especially when the Windows OS can be restored separately already. File History, by default, attempts to back up the most popular areas for people storing files and configuration settings, such as My Documents, Music, Documents, Videos, Desktop, Downloads, and AppData, but you can also include and exclude any files and folders you wish and then make a backup schedule.
This service aims to make the backing up process easy, in a set-it-and-forget-it kind of way. Once confirmed, the backup process begins. Time Machine keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, consolidates that data into daily backups for the last month, and then consolidates everything older than that into a weekly backup set. When storage space runs low, Time Machine compensates with the deletion of the oldest weekly backup.
Time Machine settings can be modified under the System Preferences. Windows Microsoft started to get very strict on what an application could do to another application or what an application could do to the operating system with Windows Vista. It put a hard separation between the OS, services, and end-user applications. With Windows 8, Microsoft created a more protected class of applications called Metro apps. They were eventually named Modern Applications.
Modern Applications, following the lead of Apple and others, could only be installed from the official Microsoft Store and only after review and approval. Modern Apps could only run if UAC was enabled. Application Guard works on Windows 10 and in conjunction with Microsoft Edge. Microsoft Edge and the sites and applications it hosts now run in an isolated VBS-based, virtualized environment that is separate from the OS.
Sessions opened in Application Guard cannot start browser extensions, save files to the local file system, or do other higher risk actions.
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Rumor has it that future versions of Application Guard will be expanded to support more applications. With WDAC, very specific allows and denies are managed by a hardware-based enforcement. One of these features will have the right level of control versus operational trade-off for your sphere of influence. Apple macOS: The best and simplest way to stay a step ahead of potential hackers is by keeping the operating system software and apps as current as possible.
If the app is caught misbehaving, Apple can pull the plug on the offending app. Considering the alternatives, the Mac App Store is as safe as it can be for app downloads. The problem: Not every app is available at the Mac App Store and sometimes a download from a third-party site is unavoidable. Apps need to be signed with a code received from Apple to run, and those apps that pass the code check run without issue.
Another feature is app sandboxing. The strengths to sandboxing also happen to be its drawbacks, so not every app supports this capability.
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Many built-in apps including the built-in web browser, Safari offer sandboxing protection. Another feature worth noting in macOS High Sierra: any kernel extension installed by an application needs explicit approval to run. This should cut down the probability of malware sneaking in unauthorized software without user knowledge and consent.
It has one-button configuration resets to get rid of any possible malicious modifications and can be put in the Windows Defender Application Guard mode.
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Every website and download is evaluated by the Windows Defender Smartscreen feature, which in Windows 10 extends across the whole Windows OS and not just the browser. Windows Microsoft is often on the cutting edge of network and wireless security technologies.
Besides long supporting wireless and network standards, it often adopts them early and pushes them to customers before most customers are ready e. A long-time network defense built into Windows is the ability to put any network or wireless connection on a separately managed profile. This allows different firewall, router, and other security settings to be enforced on a per-connection basis. Windows Windows Defender Antivirus has proven to be a top notch and un-intrusive antimalware program, especially when deployed in its default state along with Windows other antimalware features like Smartscreen and Windows Defender Exploit Guard.
Windows allows any antimalware program to load itself just after the critical OS boot processes and before any other, non-essential applications load with a featured called Early Loading Antimalware ELAM. Then in May, the popular video transcoder Handbrake was hacked, and an infected version was distributed with the OSX.
Attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and so are the mechanisms in place to help deal with potential breaches. On the Mac, routable network services are disabled by default, and many modern applications and services are sandboxed. That means that apps and system services have limited access to available system resources; malicious code is prevented from interacting with other apps or the system.
Apple also has a more extreme way to fight malware. Macs are very popular in today's market. According to NVD, the U. In , Mac OS X was in the eleventh spot with vulnerabilities. While we are seeing more people use Mac devices in small business environments, it is best practice to understand the risks, especially if the goal is to strengthen and minimize the cyber security threats within an organization.
There are security concerns that need to be understood when bringing Macs into a business environment. Mac computers are not bullet-proof as many people have believed for many years. Symantec blocked approximately 3, attacks each day, and the numbers of attacks rose to 7, by the end of the year.
From a business network security perspective, Microsoft is still the standard for business and enterprise computers and servers. While Microsoft is also open to cyber threats, Microsoft has put much more time and effort into developing products that are enterprise-ready over Apple. Macs are simply not there yet, and many organizations will still use Microsoft for better security and management of their network. There are tools that IT departments can use to counter or minimize the threats, but Apple still needs to address the existing vulnerabilities and harden the security of its operating systems.
Ultimately, no one can stop an organization from using Mac computers for their business. If a company wants to use Macs in their business network environment, it is good to understand the risks involved, plan how the risks can be minimized, and accept the risks associated with an OS X system. Kathy David is also a contributing writer for Huffington Post and she writes about business, entrepreneurship, technology, and leadership.
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