Apple patches 25 Mac OS X security vulnerabilities

Open-source code used by Apple accounts for more than half the flaws

Apple Tuesday issued its fourth security Mac OS X update of the year, patching 25 vulnerabilities, nearly half of them considered critical. The company also updated Safari for the Mac to plug a hole already fixed in the Windows version of the browser and released an update to bring the OS to version 10.5.4.

Security Update 2008-004, which follows its predecessor by about a month, fixes flaws in a dozen components of Mac OS X 10.4 (aka Tiger) and 10.5 (Leopard), ranging from Alias Manager and the Dock to VPN and WebKit. Apple labeled 11 of the 25 vulnerabilities with its "arbitrary code execution" tag, thus slotting them into a category that vendors which rate threats would peg as "critical."

Over half of the vulnerabilities were in open-source code and components that Apple bundles or integrates with its own, a not-so-unusual position for the Cupertino, Calif. company to be in, according to Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security Inc. "There's a substantial amount of software [patched] in the update that Apple is not directly responsible for," said Storms. "That will continue to be a problem for Apple, and its only solution will be to turn about updates sooner."

Security Update 2.008-004 quashed multiple bugs in Ruby, the object-oriented open-source scripting language, and in Apache Tomcat, another open-source component that provides a server environment for running Java code. Five of the six Ruby vulnerabilities were reported week before last to the Ruby developers by Apple's own security team.

"By Apple's standards, getting the Ruby fixes into this update is pretty darn fast," Storms said.

The nine Tomcat vulnerabilities, meanwhile, affect only Mac OS X 10.4; Leopard is bundled with a more up-to-date version of Tomcat. According to Apple's description, the most serious of the Tomcat flaws could enable cross-site scripting attacks, a popular vector often used by identity thieves and phishers.

Several of today's patches address problems only in the newest version of Apple's operating system, including ones in Leopard's Dock and virtual private network (VPN) implementation.

The bug in Mac OS X 10.5's Dock could be used by someone with physical access to the computer -- someone in the same office, for example -- to bypass the password requirement that kicks in when the machine comes out of sleep or exits a screensaver. "This update addresses the issue by disabling hot corners when the screen lock is active," today's security bulletin read.

Apple also fixed a vulnerability in how WebKit handles JavaScript that could be used by hackers to hijack a Mac whose user had been duped into visiting a malicious site. The vulnerability was one of four patched two weeks ago by Apple in an update to Safari for Windows.

WebKit is the open-source project that provides Safari's core engine, as well as rendering for other Mac OS X applications, including Mail and Dashboard.

On the Mac side, Safari was updated to the same version, 3.1.2, in an accompanying Leopard upgrade, also released today. Mac OS X 10.4 users, however, must update their version of Safari to obtain the patch.

Security Update 2008-004 can be downloaded from the Apple site, or installed using Mac OS X's integrated update service. Leopard users, however, won't see the security update separately on the latter, since the patches were rolled into the Mac OS X 10.5.4 upgrade also released Monday.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?