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chicagotribune.com >> Technology

Apple Hackers Encounter a Poetic Warning


By MAY WONG
AP Technology Writer
Published February 17, 2006, 12:04 AM CST

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Apple Computer Inc. has resorted to a poetic broadside in the inevitable cat-and-mouse game between hackers and high-tech companies.

The maker of Macintosh computers had anticipated that hackers would try to crack its new OS X operating system built to work on Intel Corp.'s chips and run pirated versions on non-Apple computers. So, Apple developers embedded a warning deep in the software -- in the form of a poem.

Indeed, a hacker encountered the poem recently, and a copy of it has been circulating on Mac-user Web sites this week.

Apple confirmed Thursday it has included such a warning in its Intel-based computers since it started selling them in January.

The embedded poem reads: "Your karma check for today: There once was a user that whined/his existing OS was so blind/he'd do better to pirate/an OS that ran great/but found his hardware declined./Please don't steal Mac OS!/Really, that's way uncool./(C) Apple Computer, Inc."

Apple also put in a separate hidden message, "Don't Steal Mac OS X.kext," in another spot for would-be hackers.

"We can confirm that this text is built into our products," Apple issued in a statement. "Hopefully it, and many other legal warnings, will remind people that they should not steal Mac OS X."

The hacking endeavors are, for now, relegated to a small, technically savvy set, but it underscores a risk Apple faces if a pirated, functional version eventually becomes as accessible and straightforward as installing other software on a computer.

It's a risk that became apparent after Apple decided to make a historic transition to Intel-based chips, the same type that its rivals use in predominant Windows-based PCs. Apple previously relied on Power PC chips from IBM Corp. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc., but this year began switching its computers to the Intel platform.

Various analysts have since hypothesized a worst-case situation in which Apple would lose control of its proprietary Macintosh environment: how its reputedly easy-to-use and elegant operating system would no longer be locked to its computers, a critical revenue pipeline for Apple.

Such scenarios have raised a debate among Apple observers about whether the company should just license its operating system to run on other machines, similar to Microsoft Corp.

But Apple has repeatedly said it will not do that.

Meanwhile, security experts on Thursday identified a new computer worm that specifically targets Mac computers running OS X -- a rarity since most worms target the broader base of PCs with Microsoft's Windows. Experts, however, consider the threat low.










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