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Apple to Include Auto-Updates in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

The latest version of Apple’s Mac OS X, Mountain Lion, due in just a few short weeks, will come with a rather important security feature – automatic updating.

The news comes from those testing the newest developer preview. Apple has included a new system called OS X Security Update Test 1.0, which will check Apple’s servers daily for the latest security patches.

The auto checking can also be set to run each time a Mac restarts, and any updates that are available will be automatically downloaded and installed.

The automatic updates are just one of the security enhancements slated for OS X 10.8. Gatekeeper is the other, and it will restrict the installation of downloaded applications based on their source.

It comes with three settings: users can opt to allow applications to be installed if they are taken from the Mac App Store; the Mac App Store and Identified Developers; or anywhere on the Web. When Gatekeeper was announced in February, Sophos’ Chester Wisniewski said, Apple’s idea is sound, but the implementation is flawed.

“Gatekeeper is essentially a whitelisting technology bolted onto the blacklisting technology it introduced two versions ago. While this will clearly reduce the risk for users who primarily download all of their programs through popular browsers or the App Store, it only addresses the Trojan problem that has been the primary vehicle for delivering malware to OS X,” he explained.  

“This one time check, combined with the limitations of what files are scanned from which sources significantly weakens the usefulness of Gatekeeper. The second problem is a common one to all platforms, people. If a user wishes to install something and is blocked from doing so, they more often then not will override the block. It's human nature,” he adds.

Yesterday, it was learned that Apple had revamped their marketing for OS X when it comes to Mac-based malware.

Flashback, the Mac-based malware that struck in April, led to the creation of a 700,000 node botnet comprised of all Macs. In the end, the malware wasn’t nearly as harmful as some suggested, as it only displayed advertisements – but it did crush the myth of “no viruses on a Mac.” In an apparent response to this, Apple's Mac OS X website stopped promoting the “It doesn’t get PC viruses” claim, altering it to “It’s built to be safe” instead.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.