Data Security: Home Depot’s Execs Switch To Macs, iPhones After Data Breach.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Home Depot data breach.  Among some of the revelations is that (a) they had actually upgraded to the latest security measures when the data breach was discovered and (b) executives were handed Apple devices to counteract the immediate damage.  Seeing how these were “secure,” it sounds like disk encryption had been enabled, among with the installation of other security solutions.  Plus, it made sense because the problem the facing company originated from Windows.

A Timeline and Revelations

The site wsj.com has a very good summary of how and when Home Depot was alerted of the data breach, and what happened in the following days.  It appears that they were notified of the data breach via multiple avenues, including the Secret Service as well as a financial institution’s analyst.

After that, well… the story has been covered via multiple channels, thanks to it being one of the largest data breaches in US history.  What might be news to people, however, is that when all of this was going down, Home Depot had already upgraded their security.  Unfortunately, the hackers were already inside their system by then (the application of a patch by Microsoft, meant to deal with the security vulnerability, was also powerless for this same exact reason), so Home Depot’s efforts were for naught in this particular case.

The other revelation is the switch to Macs once the company found out that they had a problem in their computer network:

The company was able to confirm a breach, but it couldn’t be sure its critical business information was out of danger. An IT employee bought two dozen new, secure iPhones and MacBooks for senior executives, who referred to their new devices as “Bat phones.”

Seeing how a Windows vulnerability was at the heart of the problem, it makes sense that Macs were employed.  On the other hand, there’s nothing magical about Macs, is there?  Switching to Macs is a temporary band-aid.

Growing Problem

One of the purported reasons why Macs are more secure than Windows is that there is less malware for it.  And the reason for that lies in Macs not being as “popular” – that is, it’s footprint in the world is much, much smaller than Windows machines.  Since hackers are looking to infect as many machines as possible, it only makes sense to expend their time going after Windows machines.

The problem with this is that it is an old argument.  Macs are becoming every more popular.  And, thanks to the growing popularity of Apple’s smartphones, more and more people are learning to code in a Mac environment. (In fact, one of the reasons why viruses and other malware were not as prevalent in the past for Macs could very well have been due to the smaller number of people who programmed for Macs.  Hackers who were looking to make the switch form Windows or other OSes may ultimately have decided it was not worth it because they’d have to re-learn a substantial amount).

But, again, it’s an old, irrelevant argument.  We can readily see that Apple’s malware-free environment is being encroached upon every day, with iPhone and Mac-specific malicious software being identified in the wild more and more often.  The users of Macs today must be as aware of the potential pitfalls as their Windows counterparts.

Related Articles and Sites:
http://online.wsj.com/articles/home-depot-hackers-used-password-stolen-from-vendor-1415309282
http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/countermeasure-in-home-depot-data-breach-macbooks-iphones-for-execs



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