Feeds

Apple TV gets its first critical security patch

Flaw made it possible to remotely access home networks

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Apple has patched a security hole in its Apple TV box that made it possible for remote hackers to access a user's network and spy on traffic passing through it.

The flaw, which was patched in an update Apple released today, is the same vulnerability that plagued OS X until Apple released an update late last month.

It resides in a technology dubbed UPnP IGD (Internet Gateway Device Standardized Device Control Protocol), which is used to map ports on home networks. Problem is, a miscreant can bring about a buffer overflow by sending a maliciously crafted packet, making it possible to execute arbitrary code.

We were at first inclined to believe that being able to execute code on a device as limited as the Apple TV was little more than a oddity. But Dave Aitel, CTO of security research firm Immunity, says the machine's connection to home networks makes the flaw serious.

"If we get control of the Apple TV machine then anything that passes next to the Apple TV machine I can see," he explains. "Certainly, there's a lot of bad things you can do with access to their local network."

The ability to root around inside the Apple TV could also have serious implications down the road if, as many predict the device becomes a platform for buying or renting video.

Apple TVs are programmed to download and install any available patches once per week. That means the machines should automatically update within the next seven days. Those, like us, who prefer to receive critical patches a bit more quickly can manually install the fix by choosing Update Software from Apple TV's preference menu.

If the past six months are any indication, 2007 may go down as the year Apple's security team was exposed as mere mortals, rather than the demigods portrayed by Apple's marketing monkeys. Last week, the company introduced a bug-riddled test version of the Safari browser for Windows. In additional to numerous crashes, the beta contained at least three holes that made it possible for machines to get owned when Safari visited booby-trapped websites. To its credit, Apple patched the flaws just three days later. The company has plugged serious holes in other major products this year, including OS X and QuickTime.

While it's true the Apple TV flaw fixed today represented a serious potential privacy and security breach, it also opened up the possibility for more benign mischief.

By exploiting the flaw, "I can watch TV for them or I can display One Night in Paris instead," Aitel postulates, referring to the steamy Paris Hilton video. ®

This story was updated to correct the title of Dave Aitel.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
End of buttons? Apple looks to patent animating iPhone sidewalls
Filing suggests handset with display strips
One step closer to ROBOT BUTLERS: Dyson flashes vid of VACUUM SUCKER bot
Latest cleaner available for world+dog in September
Samsung Gear S: Quick, LAUNCH IT – before Apple straps on iWatch
Full specs for wrist-mounted device here ... but who'll buy it?
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Now that's FIRE WIRE: HP recalls 6 MILLION burn-risk laptop cables
Right in the middle of Burning Mains Man week
Apple's iWatch? They cannae do it ... they don't have the POWER
Analyst predicts fanbois will have to wait until next year
Tim Cook in Applerexia fears: New MacBook THINNER THAN EVER
'Supply chain sources' give up the goss on new iLappy
Reg man looks through a Glass, darkly: Google's toy ploy or killer tech specs?
Tip: Put the shades on and you'll look less of a spanner
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.