Apple's Growing Security Pains

Q. Boyer
Some years ago, tech giant IBM ran an ad campaign touting its purportedly "hack-proof" security measures — and subsequently learned the hard way that there simply is no such thing as being "hack proof."

Flash ahead to 2008, and it appears that Apple could be sliding along the same learning curve that gave IBM fits back in 1999/2000.

Apple's entertaining — and more than a little unfair — ad campaign featuring the nerdy PC (brilliantly portrayed by "Daily Show" regular John Hodgman) pitted against the young hipster Macintosh doesn't come right out and claim that the Mac cannot be hacked, but various ads in the campaign have emphasized how much more of a hassle Windows and PC users face where security threats are concerned.

On the one hand, Apple's ad campaign and its other promotional efforts are working, as analysts report that the company's market share has risen significantly. On the other hand, Apple is now confronting the reality that as its popularity among users grows it becomes a more attractive target for hackers, phishers and other nefarious netsters. It stands to reason, really — modern hackers are increasingly profit-focused, so they go where the market is.

As of late 2007, Apple had patched no fewer than 32 exploitable flaws in QuickTime alone. Adding to the significance of these vulnerabilities is the fact that QuickTime is a core component of iTunes, meaning that iTunes installations are subject to the same exploits that QuickTime installations are.

While all this might sound like bad news for Apple, it's arguably the opposite: If hackers are targeting your company's software and/or devices because you have made great strides in acquiring market share, that's actually a very positive sign — provided you move quickly to address vulnerabilities and provide adequate support to your besieged customers.

Meanwhile, Apple might want to consider laying off on the jokes about the many and varied security problems of Windows-equipped PC and be mindful of that old saying about noticing the splinter in your brother's eye.