Apple patches $10,000 prize-winning bug

Apple has patched the flaw used by researcher Charlie Miller to win $10,000 in a recent Mac hacking contest.

Apple has issued a security patch for its Safari Web browser, fixing the flaw that earned one security researcher US$10,000 at the CanSecWest security conference.

The flaw was exploited by Independent Security Evaluators Researcher Charlie Miller to gain access to a MacBook Air computer three weeks ago. It lies in the WebKit open-source HTML rendering engine used by Safari and several other Mac OS X programs.

The bug lay in the way WebKit would process certain specially crafted JavaScript commands. In order to exploit the flaw, Miller had to first make the contest organisers visit a special Web site that contained his malicious JavaScript code.

There was one other winner in the CanSecWest PWN 2 OWN contest, which invited hackers to try to break into Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Shane Macaulay, a researcher with the Security Objectives consultancy, hacked into a Vista machine using an Adobe Flash Player bug, which was patched last week.

WebKit is also part of Apple's Dashboard and Mail software. An Apple spokesman could not say whether users of those products were also at risk from this attack.

In an e-mail interview, Miller said anything that used an older version of WebKit would be vulnerable. This might include Linux browsers and mobile-phone browsers, he said.

A second WebKit flaw, patched Wednesday, could lead to a cross-site scripting attack, in which an attacker can do things such as steal the login credentials or log the keystrokes of a victim.

Both the Windows and Mac OS X versions of Safari are vulnerable to these WebKit flaws, Apple said in its security advisory.

The Safari 3.1.1 update also includes fixes for a pair of Safari-for-Windows vulnerabilities that could possibly be exploited by attackers to run unauthorised software on a victim's computer and to make a phishing Web page appear to have a legitimate Web address.

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