Apple releases another mega-patch for Mac OS X

Fixes patched flaws in Finder, QuickLook, ColorSync and a host of open-source components.

Apple patched 40 vulnerabilities in Mac OS X last week -- more than half of them labeled with the company's equivalent of "critical" -- and in the process broke the 250-bug bar for the year.

Collectively dubbed Security Update 2008-007, the fixes patched flaws in the Finder, QuickLook, ColorSync and a host of open-source components that Apple integrates with its own code, including the libxslt library and vim.

"While this seems to have an abnormally high number of patches for third-party software," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security Inc., "it's become par for the course from Apple."

Prominent in the patches for others' software were fixes to server-specific components, such as ClamAV, the open-source anti-virus scanner; MySQL Server database; and Apache Tomcat.

More than half of the 40 bugs were pegged by Apple as possibly leading to "arbitrary code execution," a phrase the company uses that essentially equates to the "critical" rating used by other vendors, including Microsoft, in their security advisories.

One of the patches was a fix for a regression error, or newly-introduced bug. According to Apple, the patch for "launchd," OS X's system startup program, is only in the most recent version of Leopard that shipped last month. "This update addresses an issue introduced in Mac OS X v10.5.5," said Apple in the advisory.

Storms also noticed that six of the 40 vulnerabilities were credited by Apple to Apple itself, rather than to independent researchers. In the past, the company hasn't called out itself in advisories, but has only given credit to outside investigators. "This could be a good sign, that maybe Apple is doing more QA work on security and finding things internally," Storms said.

Researchers, including Storms, have been critical of Apple's security process, including its at-times sluggish speed in patching open-source code and its habit of rolling out updates at any time, without warning to users.

Counting the 40 holes plugged yesterday, Apple has fixed more than 250 flaws in Mac OS X this year. The tally does not include patches for Apple's Safari browser or those for its QuickTime media player. The update is the second in the last four weeks.

Security Update 2008-007 can be downloaded manually from the Apple site or installed using Mac OS X's built-in update service. Leopard users will see only the Mac OS X 10.5.5 upgrade on the latter, since the vulnerability fixes have been rolled into the update.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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