Apple patches 41 bugs in monster day of fixes

But no sign of Leopard update to fix new operating system's flaws

In one of its biggest update days in memory, Apple late Wednesday patched 41 vulnerabilities in Mac OS X, rolled out the long-anticipated (and likely last) update for Tiger, quashed 10 bugs in the Windows version of Safari and upgraded a slew of other applications.

Only an update to iPhoto, one of the Apple-branded applications bundled with Macs, is relevant to users running Leopard, the new operating system introduced three weeks ago.

Both Security Update 2007-008 and the update to Mac OS X 10.4.11 include the 41 fixes, 15 of which could be considered critical by virtue of Apple's designating them capable of "arbitrary code execution," its terminology for an attack that could result in a compromised Mac. The more than two dozen remaining patches fixed flaws that could crash the system or applications, poison the Mac's DNS cache, allow malicious Web sites to conduct drive-by downloads, or let hackers steal information or look at files on the hard drive.

Many of the vulnerabilities were in the third-party components included with Apple's operating system, noted Andrew Storms, nCircle Inc.'s director of security operations. "The majority of the bugs found in OS X and on the iPhone have dealt primarily with third-party applications shipped with Apple's operating systems," said Storms in an e-mail. "Typically, the third-party applications are open-source projects; examples represented here include BIND, bzip and Kerberos. It's good to see Apple put forth these fixes as many of these updates fix critical security flaws."

Included in that category was a fix for a Flash Player plug-in vulnerability made public in mid-July. A patched version of the plug-in has been available for manual download from the Adobe Systems Inc. Web site since then, but this is the first time that Apple has bundled it with an operating system.

Not surprisingly, Internet-related vulnerabilities accounted for a large number of the bugs. For example, the Safari browser; WebKit, the open-source application framework used by Safari, Apple's Mail e-mail client, and other Web-centric software; and WebCore, the part of WebKit that handles HTML rendering, represented more than a third of the fixes, 14 all told.

Apple has patched over 150 vulnerabilities in the eight security updates it has issued so far during 2007.

Safari for Windows, which remains in beta testing, also got an Apple upgrade in a separate download for Windows XP and Windows Vista users. Dubbed Safari Beta Update 3.0.4, the new browser plugs 10 holes, one of which could lead to code execution. Several, however, are classified as cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, which are popular tools for identity thieves on the hunt for account usernames and passwords. Apple's Windows browser has been patched against cross-site scripting vulnerabilities several times since its June release.

The update to Mac 10.4.11 -- the last to Tiger, if Apple sticks with to tradition -- also includes numerous non-security enhancements, many of them in performance, reliability and stability areas. For example, 10.4.11 improves compatibility with third-party networking hardware, boosts the reliability of running VMware Inc.'s Fusion virtualization software on Tiger, and makes it more likely users can access external USB disk drives without problems.

In separate downloads, Apple updated Cinema Tools, DVD Studio Pro, Final Cut Pro, iPhoto, Server Admin Tools, Soundtrack Pro and several other of its stand-alone applications.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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