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#811: Safari 5.1.4, Bottom Case Delamination, Malware Q&A

 
     
 

Spring is here! March 20th is the first day of Spring, and this looks to be a great week for it. High 70s all week, with the possibility of getting over 80 on Thursday.

The streets are filled with the happy sounds of motorcycles! There are so many people out there who are applying makeup, shaving, talking on the phone, and cramming that morning danish and coffee, all while driving to work. It’s easy to forget that there are other people on the road, so please watch out for those of us on two wheels and no steel cage to protect us.

This week, we bring you the latest update to Safari, some more Q&A from our customers, and an article from one of our newest technicians.

Glenn
glenn@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Safari 5.1.4  
   
 

Apple recently released a fairly important update to Safari for OS X Lion: version 5.1.4. This update brought a number of various updates to the application, covering aspects of performance as well as security.

The biggest, and probably most noticeable update, is that of JavaScript within Safari. Apple claims that with this update JavaScript performance will improve up to 11%, compared to its performance in 5.1.3. Many websites are built using the JavaScript language, such as those with built-in animation and interactive menus. An improvement to Safari’s performance with it is going to be helpful for most, if not all, users.

As far as fixes for security within Safari, version 5.1.4 fixes a small bug with Private Browsing. Normally, when using Private Browsing, none of your browsing history is recorded, making for a discreet session of internet usage. The bug was with webpages using a certain JavaScript language that were still being recorded in the user’s browsing history, effectively defeating the purpose.

Another smaller, but still important issue that was addressed pertained to PDF files saved from a website. The bug was with hyperlinks in the PDFs that, when downloaded and saved to the user’s hard drive, would break and no longer bring you to the intended webpage. This was an issue I had noticed a few times while using Safari, and I’m very glad they fixed this.

These bugs, as well as many other small ones, were addressed and resolved in this Safari update. You can read more about what exactly was addressed in the 5.1.4 update here.

 
   
     
  Bottom Case Delamination  
   
 

Hello! My name is Lance, and this is my first Tech Tails article. You can usually find me behind the service department counter in South Burlington taking care of customers.

I often get customers asking about an issue with their white unibody MacBooks. The issue is called bottom case delamination. It can occur with white MacBooks manufactured between October 2009 and April 2011. When the issue occurs, the rubber mat on the bottom of the computer separates from the housing. Below is a photo of what it can look like.

Customers often think that it’s something that they did to the computer, however this is actually a common problem. It’s an issue that Apple recognizes and will take care of, and in most cases there is no cost for this repair (even if the system is no longer under warranty or AppleCare).

The machine does have to meet eligibility requirements however, so stop into one of our stores and talk to the service department to get more information about this program.

 
   
     
  Malware Q&A  
   
 

Public knowledge can be a funny and inconsistent thing. Back when the idea of having a computer at home was a novel concept, no one knew or cared about data security and worms and such. Time passed, and companies all over started shipping affordable home PCs to the masses. Gateway 2000, Northgate, and Dell were household names, and thousands of people were being introduced to the wonderful world of Windows.

Then the hackers came along, and started polluting this brave new world with viruses and keyloggers and all manner of malware to steal data and just make life miserable. No one knew how bad viruses were or understood the threat of having your email hacked or your hard drive erased; even as late as 2003, a lot of people did not bother to install and maintain a virus scanner because they just didn’t think they needed one. (I ran my own consulting business at that time; easily 95% of my business was cleaning up after a virus infection.)

Fast forward to 2012. Mac computers are gaining market share like never before, sold as an alternative to Windows because of OS Xs stability and security. Somewhere in the past 10 years, it seems like public awareness about security threats has expanded and grown, but the actual understanding has not followed suit. The pendulum has swung from apathy (“meh, it won’t affect me”) to paranoia (“my computer won’t boot, it must be a virus!!”) The mass media is mostly to blame for this; rather than educate, they prefer to panic people needlessly. They managed to get the word out there, unfortunately the word they chose is “Doom! Doom! Doom!”

Now it seems like any time a computer does something strange, the question is, “did I catch a virus from somewhere?” I occasionally get customers with dead iPods who swear they caught a virus because they plugged it into someone else’s computer.

To hopefully clear up some misconceptions, I present a little question and answer, culled from common customer questions via our service desk, phone calls, and email.

Q. Can Macs get viruses?
A. No—sort of. The term “virus” has been misused in the media, and has become an all-encompassing generic term for anything that exists on your computer that doesn’t belong there. A virus is a malicious piece of code with the ability to spread itself without your interaction or awareness that it is even there. Viruses (technically, “virii”) have always been a big problem on PCs, dating back to boot sector viruses that spread themselves via floppy disk. Later, they were upgraded to work on Windows systems, spreading via floppy, USB key, or network connections. Typically, a virus takes advantage of an unpatched security hole (an “exploit”) and since most Windows users never bothered to run updates or keep an anti-virus program up to date, the chances were pretty good that a virus could spread unimpeded through an entire corporate network. This type of code cannot run on a Mac—OS X simply does not permit it. As with any OS, however, the weakest link is the person using it. If you go to an infected web page on a Windows system, chances are the system will be infected without you even knowing it. On a Mac, the code would be ignored.

Q. No one writes viruses for the Mac because no one buys Macs.
A. This is an old argument used primarily by Windows fanboys to put down Macs. “Your system is so pathetic that hackers won’t even write a virus for it!” Years ago, that may have been true, but it’s not the case now. Fact is, someone trying to steal credit cards or private data is going to shoot for the largest possible audience, which in almost all cases is Windows. Years ago, most people using Windows were unfamiliar with computers, and knew nothing at all about web page scams, so when a page popped up saying “you have a virus, download this program to clean it!” they believed it, did what they were told, and infected their system. People with Apple computers (at that time) tended to be more of the hobbyist, a bit more savvy, and knew to avoid stuff like that. However, now that Macs are making their way into homes as a first computer, malware writers are targeting those people as well. Last year, there was an epidemic caused by a program called MacDefender, which claimed to be an antivirus program. Since it could not automatically infect a Mac, it had to ask the user’s permission to install it. Such a thing was unheard of, and people were just not prepared for it.

Q. Do I need an antivirus program for my Mac?
A. Need? No. Macs cannot get viruses. However, now that we know hackers are writing malware for the Mac, it certainly would not hurt to have one anyway just in case. I recommend Sophos—it’s effective and free. If anything, it prevents you from passing on an e-mail virus to your friends still running Windows, and if you happen to stumble across an infected web site that tried to force a fake anti-virus program down your Mac’s throat, you’ll get a warning before you click the “Install” button.

Q. Can a smart phone be infected with malware?
A. Despite Google’s claims to the contrary, the Android platform has been targeted. Whether this is due to an inherent flaw in the OS or a mistake in the customizations done by the vendor, it has happened. iOS is different from Android, and is much more secure; however, there have been some apps released that can grab personal information and upload it to a web site. This is not really considered to be malware—access to the address book is something every iOS app has. This is more a privacy issue than a security issue, but that’s a topic for another article.

 
   
     
  TT SPECIAL: FireWire/USB Enclosure + 1TB Hard Drive  
   
 

Save $20: MacAlly 2.5in SATA FireWire/USB Aluminum Enclosure + 1TB Drive

149.99

This week, we’ve got a good deal on a MacAlly FireWire 400/USB 2.0 enclosure with a 1TB hard drive. Save $20 for one week only!

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