Disclaimer: First things first – Apple, Mac OS X and iOS are NOT free and open-source software technology. Before reading ahead, it’s important our readers understand this. But the following contains some information related to BSD, FreeBSD and NetBSD, hence why we are publishing the following article.
Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to scour through some sections of source code directly from Apple. It’s important to point out that the specific code I looked at was from the kernel that makes up both Mac OS X and iOS. No specific versions of the kernel or operating systems that this code is used in were given, but it’s irrelevant because what I found inside the code shown to me was very interesting.
Anyone who knows me probably understands that I am not the biggest fan of Apple or any of the products that the company produces. But as a developer, I have a natural tendency to be interested in all things source code, even if that code is from Apple.
We are all aware that Apple uses portions of FreeBSD code in its software, but I also discovered portions of structural code related to the NetBSD project. That was not the biggest suprise. What really opened my eyes was the amount of changes that Apple Developers make to this code. It is quite incredible and the changes are extensive. As an Apple critic myself, I have to admit that the changes to the code that Apple implements is very structured and very clean. What may start out as code born from *BSD most certainly becomes something entirely different once the Apple Developers get to work. Kudos to the Developers on their coding skills.
Browsing source code can often be a monotonous task. I found Apple’s code intriguing everywhere I looked. If you’re a developer, then you would also understand that code often gets recycled in certain files and projects and usually just modified to adapt it to the required task at hand. Apple is no different here. I discovered code dating back to 2001, the late 90’s and even copyright notices of NeXT Computer. Without more information, it’s hard to tell what exactly this code does or service it provides, simply due to the extremely confusing nature of the source code tree Apple run. But I would take a wild stab in the dark that with code this old, it is has something to do with Mac OS X, rather than iOS.
Mac OS X and iOS are becoming much the same. The two operating systems share much of the same code for the kernel source, but it’s really the drivers and interface which provide the most difference between the two operating systems. Despite Apple giving the impression of difference between the two technologies, they’re not that different underneath when you see the code. The source code has sections which are clearly derived from FreeBSD. There is code from i386, x86_64 and more recently, ARM. If enough work was done and hackers had the entire source code tree, it really wouldn’t be that hard to adapt Mac OS X for running on any system of any specifications. Apple, quite obviously use only what they need, but the code is still there and present, yet some of it sitting dormant.
And now for my bombshell. I have some across something that some Apple watchers may find very interesting indeed. In recent weeks, there’s been suspicion that the next upcoming iPhone will have fingerprint security built-in. I accessed two compressed archives and was able to run software that not only could confirm this, but it also suggests that Apple is also working on future security technology which in addition to fingerprint scanning, will also feature face scanning detection and iris scanning detection. How far along the development path Apple would be interested in implementing such technology is anyone’s guess. But without going in to too much detail, I can reveal that I have personally run the software which provides such services. And I was also provided a SDK which contained the same running software samples plus documentation and binaries for various operating system platforms. There is a lot in the compressed archives I received. And every new directory I open seems to have more files to be viewed. I suspect this technology and the software I have had the opportunity to run is derived from Apple’s by-out of mobile security firm, Authentec. My suspicions are almost confirmed because there is support for Mac OS X, Windows and even Linux. But the fact remains that there is code out there, it’s been visualized and I have personally run the software that could potentially point to the future of Apple’s mobile security intentions with the iPhone.
What do you think the future of the Apple’s security features will be for iPhone users? Let us know in the comments below.