Google hopes to sniff out OS X badware

'Santa' will tell MacAdmins if code is naughty or nice?


Google's Macintosh Operations Team has quietly been working on a whitelisting application for OS X .

Code-named Santa, the software (currently described as pre-1.0) has an SQLite database holding a list of permitted and blocked applications; a userland daemon to check the database; a kernel extension to monitor for executions; as well as a GUI and an admin command line interface (CLI).

The Chocolate Factory has both individual and fleet users in mind, since Santa's designed to let a sysadmin centrally manage a single naughty-nice database.

To try and avoid an attacker substituting any of Santa's components, the three userland components (daemon, CLI and GUI) validate each other with XPC, checking that they're using identical signing certificates.

To reduce the number of queries made, whitelisted binaries are cached in the kernel; and the kernel extension only uses kernel programming interfaces, to try and make sure that code keeps working through operating system upgrades.

In operation, Santa has two modes: a monitor mode and a lockdown mode. In monitor mode, it only blocks blacklisted binaries, but logs all executions; in lockdown mode, it only lets whitelisted binaries run.

Sysadmins can add binaries to the whitelist either with a hash, or a signing certificate (from the software publisher). Apps can also be listed by their execution path, and the binaries in OS updates are automatically whitelisted.

Google's code for Santa is at GitHub, with a lengthy wiki, and while it's still under development, the curious can get an install running. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022