1 in 5 Macs May Be Vulnerable to Attacks as Snow Leopard Retires


Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will be retiring the Snow Leopard iteration of its OSX operating system, according to a ComputerWorld report Tuesday. The company has twice declined to offer a security update for the operating system, which is now four and half years old, making it clear that it will no longer patch OSX 10.6.

Monday, the company issued two new security updates; one for it’s newest operating system, Mavericks, or OSX 10.9, as well as similar updates for Mountain Lion (10.8) and Lion (10.7).

It’s speculated that Snow Leopard’s retirement is due in part to a revised and accelerated development schedule for the OSX operating system, which is now set to receive a new, upgraded version every year. Unlike Microsoft, which is known for clearly communicating its support policies, Apple is notoriously vague regarding security and support issues. “Let’s face it, Apple doesn’t go out of their way to ensure users are aware when products are going end of life,” said AndrewStorms, director of DevOps at the security company CloudPassage, who spoke with ComputerWorld.

As of a January report, 19 percent of all Macs are still running Snow Leopard, despite the fact that the operating system is more than four years old. That number means that more Macs are running Snow Leopard than the operating system’s successor, Lion, which according to the report, is only being run on 16 percent of Macs.

While Apple may be well and done with its four-year-old operating system, the sheer volume of Mac users still running Snow Leopard means that without patches and updates, 1 in 5 Macs are left vulnerable to potential security problems, ComputerWorld reports. Furthermore, yesterday’s updates for Mavericks, Mountain Lion, and Lion patched 21 different vulnerabilities, suggesting that there is, in fact, cause for concern.

Users have a few good reasons for hanging onto their Snow Leopard operating systems, however: similar to Apple’s newest iOS iteration, many users are unhappy with the direction the company has taken regarding the newer operating systems’ user interface, and others cling to OSX 10.6 because it’s the last operating system capable of running applications designed for Apple’s earlier, PowerPC processor, the predecessor to the current Intel processor line-up.

Snow Leopard, while requiring the Mac running it to have an Intel processor, is able to run a Rosetta translation utility which can boot up older versions of Mac software that were designed to run on the PowerPC processor. For many who find that their older computers and applications are working just fine for them, updating all of their apps as well as their operating system may just seem like an unnecessary hassle and expense, although now it seems there are security concerns worth the switch, particularly after this month’s “gotofail” glitch debacle.

Despite the sizable chunk of users still running Snow Leopard, Apple’s strategy of offering free upgrades to Mavericks for Mac users who are currently running Lion or Mountain Lion seems to be working; Mavericks accounted for 42 percent of the OSX versions currently running, according to data from January, per ComputerWorld. The debut of the new operating system, however, seems to have no affect on the die-hard Snow Leopard users, according to the same report, with most of the switches to Mavericks coming from former Mountain Lion and Lion users.

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