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Friday, July 07, 2006
PowerMac phone home

I was wondering what this was when it popped up the other day...
Francois Joseph de Kermadec writes about issues raised by Apple's phone-home anti-virus system:

For the past few days, the blogging world has been abuzz with that "dashboardadvisoryd" thing. Indeed, it seems Mac OS X v. 10.4.7 contacts Apple's servers ever eight or so hours and ensures you did not inadvertently download a malicious widget. This, however, raises a great many grave questions.
Contrary to what one might think, I am not outraged by Apple's decision to phone home. Do I like applications calling home without telling their users? Absolutely not. I can however understand the reasons that motivated this choice and, while I believe it to be a PR blunder of ignominious proportions, I'm sure it'll be an easy fix for 10.4.8, much like that iTunes problem we had a few weeks ago was. Engineers come with good intentions and that is what matter. They scratched their heads to improve security and they deserve applause for that.
No, what worries me is that we have, basically, re-invented anti-virus systems: provide "signatures" for rogue applications, perform a check against a known database and raise a red flag when the check returns positive. That, essentially, means one thing: there is no way to prevent damage (or, at least, one has renounced) so one relies on the next best thing, that is checking after the damage is done. The virtual equivalent of the difference between a condom and emergency "day-after" medication.

[See also Cnet's story, Apple widget checks raise eyebrows. -MacInTouch]

From Macintouch.

When are OS and software people going to learn that they can't put in this kind of stuff without telling people? It gets immediately detected.