Apple finally patches six-month-old Java bugs

Fixes 32 flaws, including one a researcher used to 'shame' Apple with public attack code

Apple yesterday patched 32 vulnerabilities in its implementation of Java, more than six months after Sun fixed the same flaws for Windows and Linux users.

The updates patch multiple versions of Java used in Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard, and Mac OS X 10.4, or Tiger, and bring Macs in line with the updates Windows received as far back as December 2008 and as recently as March 2009.

Yesterday's update brings Java SE 6 up to Version 1.6.0_13 on the Mac, J2SE 5.0 to Version 1.5.0_19, and J2SE 1.4.2 to 1.4.2_21.

Some of the bugs could be used to hijack Macs, Apple said. "Visiting a Web page containing a maliciously crafted untrusted Java applet may lead to arbitrary code execution," the company warned in the advisory that accompanied the Leopard update.

Unlike rivals such as Microsoft, Apple maintains its own versions of Java and is responsible for delivering patches to users. Typically, Apple is slow to patch the problems that Sun fixes. A six-month lag after the time Sun issues updates for Windows and Linux is not unusual. When Apple refreshed Java in September 2008, for example, it fixed more than two-dozen vulnerabilities, some of which had been patched in updates for Java for Windows, Linux and Solaris as far back as March 2008.

Apple regularly comes under fire for its sluggish pace. Last month, a security researcher angered by the delays posted attack code that exploited one of the unfixed bugs. The vulnerability exploited by Landon Fuller, a San Francisco-based researcher, was one of the many that Sun fixed Dec. 3, 2008, but that Apple only got around to patching yesterday.

Apple last issued a general security update more than a month ago, when it patched 67 vulnerabilities, but it has since patched both QuickTime and Safari.

The Java security updates can be downloaded manually from Apple, or installed using Mac OS X's integrated update service.

Users can verify that the updates have taken by using the JavaTester.org site created by Computerworld blogger Michael Horowitz.

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Gregg Keizer

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