Why New Macs Are DHS’ Key to Malware That Targets PCs

Paul Sakuma/AP File Photo

Agency buys hardware and software ahead of move to St. Elizabeths.

A federal office that analyzes malicious code and compromised computers says it needs new MacPros with specialized software to analyze malware designed to undermine Windows-based systems.

The vast majority of malware is written for PCs, explained the Homeland Security Department, justifying its requirement for buying name-brand computers for analysts in the Security Operations Center. “The host operating system should be something other than the operating system the malware was designed to exploit to avoid the potential for compromising the base OS and possibly spreading to other analysis machines sharing the network,” the agency said.

The center’s analysts will run corrupted code on the Macs inside a sandbox -- an isolated virtual environment in which programmers can conduct tests, the agency said. If they receive Mac-based malware, the Mac will be required to analyze it dynamically.

The Security Operations Center needs the computers for its new offices at DHS headquarters on the grounds of a hospital in Southeast Washington. The center is currently using computers and software licenses that belong to Customs and Border Protection, where they will stay after the move.

DHS redacted the estimated amount of the Apple computers and PROMISE software buy, but said it planned to procure the machines through FirstSource II, a multiple-award, indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity technology contracting vehicle.