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Should Apple fight Flashback on older Macs?


Gadgets on the go

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

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Bondi Junction Apple store opening.

Bondi Junction Apple store opening.

Why has Apple left Leopard users in the lurch?

Flashback has made plenty of headlines lately, and rightly so. It's not the first Mac security threat, but it's perhaps the most significant -- infecting more than half a million Macs at its peak via a Java exploit. Apple's tardiness in releasing a Java update has been partially blamed for Flashback's spread, considering Oracle patched the exploit in February but Apple didn't update Java for Mac OS until April.

What's perhaps more disturbing is that Apple is only helping Mac users running Mac OS 10.7 Lion and 10.6 Snow Leopard, issuing a Java update and Flashback removal tool. If you're running Mac OS 10.5 Leopard or earlier, which reportedly accounts for 20% of Macs, Apple's only advice is to upgrade your operating system. There's no Java update or Flashback removal tool, you're on your own. 

That's pretty disappointing considering Apple only stopped shipping machines running Leopard three years ago. I know it doesn't cost much to upgrade, but that's not the point. Some of us might be quick to upgrade our computers when a new operating system comes along, but not everyone feels this way. Not everyone wants to tinker with their Mac if it's happily running Leopard, especially if they're not that tech-savvy and bought a Mac because it "just works". Such less-tech-savvy people are perhaps the most vulnerable to malicious software, yet Apple has left them out in the cold.

If this is Apple's way of "encouraging" people to upgrade, it's pretty shabby treatment. It's not as if Flashback attacks some fundamental flaw which can't be addressed in older versions of Mac OS. Leopard isn't broken, Apple just wants to wash its hands of it. Mac users are often quick to take the moral high ground, but even Microsoft tends to offer OS security support for longer. 

If you're a Mac user still running Leopard or earlier, you'll find some advice regarding Flashback in today's paper. Is Flashback the final straw that will "encourage" you to upgrade to Lion?

35 comments so far

  • Apple created the virus to force their user base to update to the latest OS and make it easier to take advantage of all the latest goodies...hahahahahar


    Apple Lover
    No, really!
    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 4:03PM
    • This is typical Apple behaviour these days !

      If you're not upgrading your OS all the time - because they say so - you are not contributing sufficiently to Apple's profit stream.

      If you don't keep paying, they don't care...

      Leaving their users in this compromised position is certainly inappropriate

      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 4:04PM
      • Look, I agree that Apple should reach a little further back than 10.6, but let's calm down a little.

        Their OS upgrades are $30, so not a huge amount of profit there, compared to MS upgrades.

        And as far as their service goes, I can't speak of them highly enough. I'm currently getting one on one support (probably up to about 10 hours by now) for a networking problem on iTunes. So what? It's the Windows version I'm having issues with. Free software on someone else's OS and they're backing to the hilt. Call me a fanboy, but with service like that, who wouldn't be?

        Harvey K-Tel
        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 4:46PM
      • @ Harvey - Yes spending ~10 hours with apple support trying to get iTunes working on a PC, praising apple support, does indicate apple fanboyism.

        The just shows you what apple thinks of iPeople when they don't consume the latest iProduct.

        I'm not complaining, more $$$ for apple investors I say!!!

        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 10:43PM
      • @Harvey, thanks for the laugh, it's an excellent entry to the weekend. Why do you need to spend 10 hours on the phone in the first place? iTunes; worst software ever.

        Date and time
        April 27, 2012, 11:49AM
      • @Harvey
        Their OS upgrades are $30, so not a huge amount of profit there, compared to MS upgrades.

        I think you'd find that if a similar exploit existed in Windows that MS would address it. This would be the case for WinXP which was released in about 2001? Regular SP upgrades to a Win machine don't cost anything.

        Date and time
        April 27, 2012, 3:24PM
      • Getting a little off topic but yes markk is correct. The updates that Apple charge for are point releases, in Windows these are akin to service pack updates which are free. I know Mac OS isn't exactly unix but it seems to have inherited some of the generational issues, ie you lag behind the current build, source libraries evolve and you are out of the picture in terms of support. Some of the apps included in the OS are completely incompatible between point releases. Apple has never cared about this, the answer is to pay your $30 and upgrade the OS. Explore these problems and you are rapidly directed to the itunes store and prompted to upgrade. One point release behind it's not too bad, get a couple of versions behind and things get more difficult and more expensive.

        Date and time
        April 28, 2012, 2:31AM
    • I am not running Leopard on any machine I use to surf the net.

      I know people who are, inculuding people in my household.

      Apple should release the java update for previous versions of the OS where it is possible to do so.

      It should be not too much trouble to release for as far back as OS X 10.3 - which would cover all reasonable possible users, if not then 10.4.

      I don't think many would be left out by going back to 10.4, probably only those not on the internet anyway.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 4:10PM
      • I've got an old Intel Mac Mini that won't upgrade to 10.6.
        The Upgrade says its not supported.
        So basically buy a new machine or remain vulnerable.

        Screw you Apple.

        Imagine Microsoft not fixing issues in Windows XP...and thats 12+ years old?

        Date and time
        April 26, 2012, 4:20PM
        • Good work Adam.
          I am an Apple user and as much as I love the experience and the brand, you have made a very valid point.
          Apple needs to address this pronto. Maybe your article might help this happen somehow.

          Date and time
          April 26, 2012, 4:23PM

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