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QuickTime, not Safari, to blame for MacBook vuln

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Updated The zero-day vulnerability that allowed a hacker to commandeer a brand new MacBook Pro late last week resides in a flaw in Apple's QuickTime media player, the exploit's author says. The revelation corrects descriptions given last Friday that the exploit targeted Safari.

Dino Dai Zovi set the record straight in a blog posting yesterday. It adds that Mac users browsing with Firefox are also vulnerable if QuickTime is installed and that QuickTime may put Java-enabled browsers on Windows machines at risk as well. Several hours after this story was first published, a new entry appeared that said unnamed sources at 3com have determined the QuickTime flaw is also exploitable on Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7.

Secunia has rated the QuickTime flaw highly critical, its second highest rating. "This can be exploited to execute arbitrary code when a user visits a malicious web site," the site warned. It recommends users disable Java as a work around until Apple releases a patch.

On Friday, Shane Macaulay, a friend of Dai Zovi's who participated in a "pwn-2-own" contest at the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, described the flaw as residing in Safari. Dai Zovi, who wrote the exploit but didn't actually attend the conference, said on Tuesday that the vulnerability in fact lies in the way QuickTime handles Java. The exploit required a machine visit a booby-trapped website in order to work. Dai Zovi spent about nine hours writing the exploit, which allows a hacker to remotely gain full user rights to the targeted machine.

Under the contest rules, a successful exploit entitled the author to go home with the hacked machine. It also nets him a $10,000 bounty from security provider Tipping Point pending confirmation of the finding.

Dai Zovi on Tuesday declined to discuss the QuickTime in detail other than to say it allows a client-side Java error to execute arbitrary code when a Java-enabled browser visits a malicious website.

Dai Zovi's handiwork is only the latest discovery of a QuickTime vulnerability. Last month, Apple issued an update that plugged eight holes in the popular media playback software. ®

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