This summer Apple is planning to release the next iteration of its operating system, OS X 10.8 or Mountain Lion. In this release, one of the company’s core focuses is security.
While Mac growth has been great for Apple, it has become clear that due to the increased adoption of OS X, malware creators have started to take an interest in developing malware for the Mac. And make no mistake, Apple is well aware of this growing threat.
So how does Apple plan to help stop malware from becoming a problem on the Mac? The answer is: Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper will offer Mac users three distinct security features:
Mac App Store: This setting will only allow you to install and run only apps that are downloaded from the Mac App Store. As a proponent of the Mac App Store, I think this is a great solution for more novice computer users. While not all developers are onboard with submitting their software to the Apple-run store, developer participation in the store is increasing. In fact, a recent report stated that there are now 10,000 applications in the Mac App Store.
Mac App Store and identified developers: This setting is slightly different than the previous one because it allows you to install and run apps from the Mac App Store and apps that have a verified Developer ID. This means you are able to also download applications outside the Mac App Store provided they are signed with an Apple Developer ID. In order to obtain a Developer ID, the developer must be registered for the Mac Developer Program where Apple will assign them a unique ID for their apps. The ID will then be used to verify that the app you downloaded from the Internet has not been tampered with in any way, therefore ensuring its integrity.
Additionally, if you did happen to download an app from the Internet that was not signed with a Developer ID, Gatekeeper will inform you so you can then decide whether or not to install it.
Anywhere This setting will allow you to install all apps from anywhere, just as you can today. In other words, with this setting you are not limited to the Mac App Store or apps only signed by trusted developers, you can download and install anything you want without being bothered.
While Apple would most likely love every Mac user to use the Mac App Store only setting it might not currently be a realistic hope. There are a few reasons why:
1. Apple has several requirements that developers must adhere to in order to be accepted into the Mac App Store. All developers might not want to comply.
2. Certain applications may require additional system accessibility in order to function properly and may not be approved into the Mac App Store (even if developers want to be in the store).
3. Some developers may not be willing to share 30% of their earnings to Apple to be listed in the Mac App Store.
Because of this there will be many users who select one of the other two settings, therefore potentially exposing their computer to malicious software. Gatekeeper is an interesting idea and a good start for Apple, but it’s critical that Apple continues to focus on security as more people make the switch.