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Apple primes OS X devs for anti-malware Gatekeeper

Mountain Lion users safely herded to Mac App Store

Apple emailed a reminder to OS X developers to get a “Developer ID” to comply with Gatekeeper, its iOS-like anti-malware feature for the upcoming OS X Mountain Lion release.

Gatekeeper’s debut on the desktop partially applies Apple’s highly-successful ‘walled garden’ strategy to keep malware off iOS devices by tightly controlling how apps make it to the App Store.

Apple won’t prevent Mac users from downloading software from the web but it is marketing Gatekeeper and the Mac App Store as the single and safest place to download software and updates.

The ID under the Mac Developer Program allows developers to cryptographically sign applications placed on Apple’s desktop market place. If the app is not from an accredited ID, Gatekeeper warns the user.

The email published by 9to5 Mac, notes that “a Developer ID certificate lets Gatekeeper verify that they are not known malware and have not been tampered with.”

Renowned white-hat Apple hacker at Accuvant Lab Charlie Miller -- who was earlier this year banned for one year from Apple’s iOS developer program after discovering a firmware flaw that let him circumvent Apple’s signing process -- praised Apple’s efforts to extend the iOS security model to OS X.

“It’s smart because it takes the decisions of security away from the users,” Apple security researcher Dr Charlie Miller told CSO.com.au.

“Users just want to install some game or software, so people with more expertise at Apple or Microsoft or whatever have a chance to look at those [apps], because you get into trouble when you end up in some far corner of the internet where you’re the first guy that’s been there and you’re downloading a file you don’t even know you’ve downloaded.”

The perfect example that case was the recent Flashback outbreak, which marked the first time Mac users were hit by a “drive-by download” trojan, more commonly associated with Windows attacks.

While consumers may benefit from tighter security, Gizmodo raised concerns in February that popular multi instant-messaging system, Adium, might get nudged off OS X in favour of Apple’s currently in-beta “Messages” app, which replaces iChat and unifies messaging across iOS and OSX devices. Like Adium, it supports AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk and Jabber, however Adium still supports a wider choice of IM platforms.

However, it appears Adium did this March get an Apple Developer ID account, according to mailing list message purportedly by key Adium developer Evan Schoenberg.

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