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MacOS' Sherlock surreptitiously sends email addresses

Second Apple security glitch spotted

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A security glitch that exposes users' email addresses has been found lurking within Apple's Sherlock Internet search technology. The discovery comes a month after it was detected that Apple's iTools online service transmits users' passwords without scrambling them first. The latest discovery was made by MacWelt magazine and Web site MacSherlock. In fact, it's not a glitch as such, rather it's a lack of thought on the part of Sherlock's programmers. Sherlock has an auto-update facility which checks for new versions of modules that allow it to search specific sites. The Register itself has just such a plug-in that can be downloaded here. Our plug-in is provided through a Web server, but if the update is transferred by FTP, Sherlock will log in anonymously, but provide the user's email address as the login password. In the past, it was considered courteous to provide your email address this way when downloading files anonymously. Nowadays, in these more privacy-conscious times, it's much less commonplace. In fact, many applications that support FTP, such as Netscape Navigator, allow users the choice as to whether their email address is transmitted this way. Last month's security glitch centred on the iTools browser plug-in, which communicates with the server using XML. Software developer Brad Pettit discovered that the plug-in transmits the user's password 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 said. Pettit also found the iTools software capable of "gathering and sending all sorts of machine-specific data to Apple, such as hardware ethernet addresses. ®

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