Apple Support Throws Snow Leopard Under The Bus, Leaving 1 in 5 Macs Vulnerable To Hacker Attacks

A Snow Leopard patch for the go-to-fail SSL bug was notably absent from this critical tranche of Apple security updates on Tuesday, even though about twenty percent of the Mac installed base is still running 10.6, four and a half years after it was originally released.

That presumably leaves snow leopard holdouts vulnerable to hacker attacks, which represents literally millions of Mac users.

Snow Leopard was also passed over in Apple’s last batch of security updates for Safari 6 and 7, but not for Safari 5.1.10, the most recent version of the browser that supports OS X 10.6.

Snow Leopard die-hards aren’t just lazy about upgrading or foot-dragging Luddites. Snow Leopard is a great-performing OS, and it’s the last OS X version that supports Rosetta emulation for Carbon software applications that were ported to Intel from Power PC versions, rather than rewritten from scratch in Intel native code. I still have Snow leopard on one of my late 2008 model MacBook. I mostly boot from OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on the MacBook these days, and my new MacBook Air has Mavericks, but I still prefer Snow Leopard in many respects (it’s not as iOSsified as subsequent versions, and there are several Carbon apps I don’t want to lose access to.

Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer deduces that to Apple, Snow Leopard is increasingly looking like Windows XP does to Microsoft: an operating system that refuses to roll over and die, citing Net Applications metrics showing that at the end of January, 19 percent of all Macs were still running Snow Leopard, more than are still using its successor, Lion (16%, and almost as much as Mountain Lion, whose user share plummeted once Mavericks arrived.

Keizer notes that Tuesday’s updates patched 21 vulnerabilities in Lion, and 26 in Mountain Lion, so there are likely 20 or more left unpatched in orphan Snow Leopard.

Keizer notes that according to Net Applications, Mavericks accounted for 42 percent of all versions of OS X used in January, but its continued gains have come mostly at the expense of Mountain Lion — which lost 6 percentage points in the previous two months, and Lion, which dropped by 2 points in the same period with Snow Leopard largely unaffected.

The likelihood of Apple being persuaded to change its mind on this issue is extremely slim, and that leaves an awful lot of loyal Mac users twisting in the wind. Not cool. Best to use another device for online banking and other security critical tasking, folks.

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