Mac OS X riddled with security holes

Apple Computer has released a range of patches for security holes -- both old and new -- for its Mac OS X operating system, which it advises users to download immediately.

The company is downplaying the issue but one security company at least is concerned that the vulnerabilities could be extremely serious. Secunia has given the five -- yes, five -- patches a "highly critical" rating and warned that they may allow hijacking, security bypass, data manipulation, privilege escalation, denial of service and system access.

In other words, it makes Microsoft Corp.'s current Sasser problems look no more than a nasty nip. The difference of course is that Windows is the vast majority of the market and Macs account for only three percent of operating systems. There isn't a worm exploiting the holes as yet but the company is strongly advising users to download and install the patches as the OS looks like an easy target at the moment.

Secunia has given the series of patches a "highly critical" rating, which it explained was due to the Apple's dismissive attitude to one of the holes. Secunia described a vulnerability within AppleFileServer that allows for a buffer overflow as an attempt to "improve the handling of long passwords", but security specialists @stake Inc. warned that it could lead to the full system access.

This strange habit of pretending a big problem is of no significance was also displayed last month, when Apple explained that it was "aware" of a Trojan horse that could be used to compromise its systems and was investigating it, but refused to say any more, commenting only that it has an excellent track record of patching holes.

And another "highly critical" hole in the company's Quick Time media player just this week has also been largely ignored by Apple (publicly at least), with the company only releasing an advisory under pressure from the company that discovered the hole, eEye Digital Security Inc.

All this has meant that Secunia is highly suspicious of two previously unannounced holes patched today. One exists within the CoreFoundation when handling environment variables and could allow for privilege escalation. The other is within RAdmin when handling large requests and could be a system compromise.

As such, Secunia has posted a note which reads: "The severity has been set to 'highly critical' because the unspecified issues are likely to be more severe than claimed by the vendor."

The other two holes are older and known. One is in Apache 2 and can be exploited by adding malicious characters into log files to cause a denial of service. The other covers two holes in IPSec that can again be used to cause a denial of service.

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