Apple updates Safari for second time in two weeks

'Stability improvements' may address November 13 version's crashes

For the second time in less than two weeks, Apple updated its Safari Web browser by issuing version 3.2.1 Monday.

Unlike the November 13 update, which added anti-phishing protection and patched 11 security vulnerabilities -- more than two-thirds of them critical -- yesterday's minor upgrade was for unspecified "stability improvements," according to a terse notice on the Apple Web site.

Although the notice included a link to the "Apple security update" page -- where the company normally provides pointers to security advisories associated with such updates -- there was no listing there for Safari 3.2.1.

A security researcher who in the past has taken Apple to task for its unpredictable patching schedule did so again Monday. "It would be too much of an understatement to say 'more of the same'," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at vendor nCircle Network Security, in an instant message. "But in doing so, it also represents the lethargic approach we've come to expect with Apple updates.

"If only they would put some of that creative spirit we love about Apple into their security development life-cycle," Storms added.

Although Apple's scanty information about Safari 3.2.1 made it impossible to know for certain, some people speculated on the company's support forum that the update was aimed at fixing problems users reported with Safari 3.2 since its release. Among the complaints: Frequent crashes, particularly when the new anti-phishing feature was enabled.

One thread on the Safari support forum titled "Safari 3.2 is Unusable -- Spontaneously Quits," has collected more than 100 messages and been viewed nearly 4,000 times since it was opened on November 13.

There were few reports early Monday evening about whether the day's update had stopped browser crashes. One user, at least, said it had not. "[Safari] 3.2.1 still crashed for me," reported a user identified as Raymond Smith in a message.

Other users running PithHelmet -- a third-party ad-blocking plug-in -- also reported that the 3.2 update frequently crashed.

Apple updated both the Mac OS X and Windows versions of Safari to 3.2.1.

Mac OS X users can download and install 3.2.1 using Safari's built-in update feature, or on Windows, by running the separate Apple Software Update utility.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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