Editorial: Behind the MacBook "Hack"

The web has been on fire the past few days with news of a presentation given at the BlackHat computer security conference featuring the compromising a MacBook Pro by executing very low-level code on the drivers of a wireless card. Whether or not the exploit presented actually counts as hacking of a Macintosh (they used a third party wireless card) is not at issue in this post. What I think is more important is the fact that these guys chose to demonstrate the vulnerability on a Mac, instead of a Windows or Linux machine, which are also vulnerable to the exploit. The presenters cited the "Mac userbase aura of smugness on security" as their reason for choosing a Mac as their guinea pig.

Some readers might attribute this negative attitude toward Mac users as one held only by uninformed Windows users and malicious hackers, but that is far from the case. Many very intelligent and highly respected members of the tech community feel the same way. Some of them even used to love Macs.

Before pointing any fingers and making any accusations about who lost their mind when, I think we need to take a step back and examine our behavior.

I think it is fair to assume that most Mac zealots and power users do not intend to come off as smug or holier-than-thou, but intentions do not always correlate to behavior. I can think of multiple times when I have made statements that could be interpereted as stating that OS X is the best Operating System for any and all users, even if I didn't believe that was the case. We have all made this mistake at one time or another.

I think what it comes down to is this: Mac users are so used to people making baseless assertions about how Windows/Linux is better than Mac because of x that we automatically go on the defensive when someone makes any criticism of our chosen platform, even if they are right. I certainly admit that the Mac is far from perfect and there is much Apple could do to make it better. Despite this, I feel that the combination of OS X and Apple hardware is the right choice for my computing needs.

Looking away from the users, we see an apparent attitude from Apple that certainly doesn't help matters. Quoth one of the BlackHat presenters,"We're not picking specifically on Macs here, but if you watch those 'Get a Mac' commercials enough, it eventually makes you want to stab one of those users in the eye with a lit cigarette or something." I can certainly see where he is coming from; with Apple insinuating things such as Mac's never having to re-start, or that OS X can do everything better than Windows, its not a surprise there are some hard feelings.

With the switch to Intel allowing easy virtualization of Windows and Windows applications on the Mac, we are at a turning point. I expect considerable growth in Mac market share in the years to come, but only if Apple and its users closely re-evaluate their attitudes and actions regarding many issues, not the least of which is how we interact with users of other platforms.

In the coming weeks, I plan to delve deeper into what I am coining "Mac Crisis 2.0," the first Mac crisis being the state of Apple in the mid nineties before the return of Steve Jobs. Stay tuned.