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As Symantec talks up Mac OS X security threat

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Apple this week posted security updates to fix nine security vulnerabilities in its Mac OS X operating system. Both client and server versions of the latest version of its software - Mac OS X v10.3.8 - need patching.

First up there's two security bugs in the Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) that could create a means for attackers to either launch a denial of service attack or discover the contents of a drop box. In addition, a buffer overflow problem in Core Foundation, which creates a means for crackers to inject hostile code into vulnerable systems, has been discovered and patched.

Apple has also updated its Safari browser software to guard against the obfuscation of domain names in the International Domain Names (IDN) format that creates a possible means to engineer more convincing phishing attacks. Opera (here) and Mozilla (here) have both updated their browser software to respond to the same issue over recent weeks.

Other software fixes include: an update to the Cyrus IMAP client in Mac OS X server software; an upgrade for Cyrus SASL to address denial of service risks; and a fix for a serious security bug in folder permissions, which creates a mechanism for all manner of mischief including privilege escalation attacks. A patch for Apple's Mailman mailing list package to guard against directory transversal attacks is also on the list. Finally there's a patch for Mac OS X client and server software to address a Bluetooth setup security glitch.

Apple has posted a minimalist explanation of the bugs here. The patches can be downloaded from here but for most users these will have already been automatically applied after they were issued on Monday, 21 March.

Windows-style security purgatory looms for Mac OS X (allegedly)

Over the past year, Symantec has documented 37 high-severity vulnerabilities in Mac OS X. It said the appearance of a rootkit109 called Opener in October 2004 illustrates that the platform is becoming of more interest to attackers. "Contrary to popular belief, the Macintosh operating system has not always been a safe haven from malicious code," Symantec said in a report published Monday.

Symantec - which has a clear interest in encouraging Apple users to buy its security packages - reckons that the Mac OS X, and growing popularity of Apple machines, has made the OS a more tempting target for attacks. This point remains unproven and Mac fans can always point to the scarcity of viruses - or spyware for that matter - on the platform compared to Windows as evidence that they are safer from attack. ®

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