Apple patches QuickTime, iPhone, iPod bugs

But last week's critical QuickTime RTSP flaw not fixed, says researcher

Just hours after Apple's CEO Steve Jobs touted iTunes and the iPhone, the company plugged four security holes in QuickTime -- iTunes' media-player sidekick -- and fixed three flaws in both the iPhone and its iPod Touch cousin.

All four of the QuickTime vulnerabilities were classified by Apple as able to end in "arbitrary code execution," meaning an attacker can inject malware or hijack the system. Apple does not rank its flaws, but others, such as Microsoft, usually label such bugs as "critical."

None of the patches fix the vulnerability disclosed last week by Italian researcher Luigi Auriemma, who posted a proof-of-concept exploit January 10 for another flaw in the Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), a streaming-media protocol that Apple last patched in December to quash a different bug.

"The most important news is that the RTSP vulnerability was not fixed in this release," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle, in an e-mail. "The zero-day attack code remains available on the Internet and requires a relatively low skill level to utilize. Consumers and enterprises with Macs on their network should pay close attention to this vulnerability."

The advisory that accompanied QuickTime 7.4 spelled out the quartet as vulnerabilities in QuickTime's handling of Sorenson 3 video files, movie files' resource records, Image Descriptor atoms -- a type of QuickTime image file data object -- and compressed PICT image files.

Storms noted that all four flaws were in QuickTime's file parsers, which wasn't a surprise. "This is a problem that both Apple and Microsoft have been battling for a number of years. These types of vulnerabilities continue a trend away from older network-style attacks and toward client-side attacks utilizing multimedia delivery methods for malware," he said.

Today's update was the first for QuickTime in 2008, and the first since December 13, when Apple fixed, multiple vulnerabilities in the player software.

All told, Apple patched more than 30 flaws in QuickTime last year.

Apple also issued 2008's first iPhone update, dubbed 1.1.3, which included three patches for problems in the device's stripped-down version of the Safari browser, as well as in its Passcode Lock, a feature designed to prevent applications from running unless a special code is entered.

Only one of the three can result in arbitrary code execution, claimed the iPhone's security advisory. The other two could let unauthorized users access locked applications or reveal personal information in a Web-based cross-site scripting attack, which are favored by phishers.

The iPhone patches also apply to the iPod Touch, the music player-cum-wireless-Internet-device that resembles the smart phone.

The iPhone/iPod Touch fixes are delivered as part of 1.1.3, which arrives via iTunes. Mac users can upgrade QuickTime to Version 7.4 using the operating system's built-in Software Update feature, while Windows users can either download the new edition from the Apple site or use the Windows-only update tool.

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Gregg Keizer

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