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Microsoft Mac man exposes Apple iTools security hole

Core browser plug-in sends passwords as plain text. Oh dear...

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Apple's new iTools Web enhancements for Mac owners contain a major security flaw which exposes users' passwords, according to a member of Microsoft's Mac development team writing on MacInTouch. iTools offloads what are usually server-based operations onto client Macs via a Web browser plug-in that each user must download to use the Apple service. According to developer Brad Pettit, who works on the development of the Mac version of Internet Explorer, the plug-in communicates with the server using XML. Pettit discovered that the plug-in transmits the user's password, presumably held locally to ensure users don't need to enter it every time they visit the iTools Web site or to activate their 20MB of remote storage (dubbed iDisk), as plain text. "One could theoretically control the plug-in from any link that loads content into your Web browser. And you wouldn't even know it," he says. There's a privacy angle here too, says Pettit. His study of the plug-in has found software capable of "gathering and sending all sorts of machine-specific data to Apple, such as hardware ethernet addresses! Since the plug-in also contains all the function names (one is named 'ExplorerSucksTheLifeOutOfMe') and even an 'Apple Need To Know Confidential' resource". Of course, as a Microsoft employee, there's an element of pots calling kettles black here when it comes to snagging data about users' systems, but it's still worrying that Apple may well be getting up to the kind of tricks the likes of Microsoft, RealNetworks and others have been slammed for in the past by privacy groups. Apple's own policy statement reads: "If you browse Apple's web site, you do so anonymously. We don't collect personal information -- including your e-mail address." Even though the statement doesn't refer to iTools specifically, we presume that Apple will honour its word and not use the plug-in to swipe personal data. After all, they'd never do that, would they? ®

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