Leopard security bug puts Mail users at risk
Nasty vuln, purged from Tiger, seizes new OS
Programmers have reintroduced a yawning security hole in Leopard, the latest version of Apple's highly regarded operating system, after having patched it more than 20 months ago in an earlier version, a researcher has warned.
The bug in Apple Mail makes it possible for attackers to run malicious code on a victim's machine by disguising an executable program as an image or other type of innocuous file, said Juergen Schmidt, editor-in-chief at Heise Security. A user can become infected simply by clicking on an attachment that looks like a jpeg image.
The bug is similar, if not identical, to one that Apple patched in March 2006, which also affected the Safari browser and iChat instant messenger program. The fix prompted Tiger, Leopard's predecessor, to inspect attached files and present a warning if the file a user clicked on was potentially unsafe.
Alas, that warning has largely vanished when Leopard users click on disguised executable files received in Mail, said Schmidt, who has set up a demo exploiting the bug here. About 90 percent of the time, he said, the file will run with no warning. He has yet to pinpoint what causes the dialog box to appear sometimes and not others.
"You would think that since they went to the trouble to fix it in Tiger, why reintroduce it in Leopard?" said Kevin Long, a researcher at Verizon Business, who specializes in security issues affecting Apple software. "The fact that they had done that before in Tiger and they didn't pro actively put that in Leopard is unfortunate."
Apple representatives didn't respond to a request for comment by time of writing. Apple has sold more than 2 million copies of Leopard to date.
Shortcomings in file validation have plagued Apple for some time now. The original bug resided in Mac operating systems for years before Apple finally patched the vulnerability. Even then, the security measure was criticized by some because it didn't work with third-party apps such as Firefox or Thunderbird and because OS X still made it easy to disguise malicious files as images.
Schmidt says he has not yet analyzed Safari or iChat to see if they properly validate files under Leopard but says "it's entirely possible" they don't. ®
Works fine here
Leopard 10.5.1 - got the test email and when I clicked on the fake attachment, Mail gave me the following information:
“Heise.jpg” may be an application. It was attached to a mail message and will be opened by Terminal. Are you sure you want to open it?
Sounds pretty comprehensively protected to me!
I'm once again reminded why I don't usually bother with reading the comments on the Apple & Microsoft articles; any meaningful commentary is drowned by the number of technically-adept and socially-challenged folks (trolls) who don't have a spouse with whom to argue (or have forgotten about their spouse) and are looking to start an argument as a geekish form of entertainment.
Perhaps there should be a new MUD created that pits the Mac Fanchildren against the Microsoft Arials and the Torvald groupies. They'll have no weapons, they'll just stay in the dingy passages and pointless rooms arguing with one another, with both sides eventually declaring victory or suing one another for defamation in a real court.
The best part is that no actual experience with opposing platforms is required.
I think I'll go for a walk outside or make something with my hands rather
than reading the blatherings of enraged and bitter sociophobes.
been-there, done that.
its all lies
but MacOSX has no flaws. its a perfect operating system. I like paying extra cash for nice looking hardware with an OS that limits what I can do.