Feeds

Apple keeps critical security fixes to itself

Insecurity through obscurity

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Apple has released updates for two widely distributed products that harbored a raft of security vulnerabilities, some of which were actively being exploited by miscreants. Unbelievably, the company isn't presenting either as a security fix to mainstream users despite the risk the bugs pose for its millions of users.

QuickTime 7.3.1 fixes at least three vulnerabilities. The most serious of them resided in the way QuickTime interacts with servers that stream music and video and gave miscreants the ability to completely hijack both PCs and Macs alike. According to Symantec criminals have been exploiting it for two weeks now by luring victims to booby-trapped websites.

The update, which was released Thursday, plugs two other holes, both of which give an attacker the ability to execute malicious code on vulnerable machines.

A day later, Apple updated its Java runtime software for Macs running earlier versions of OS X. Java Release 6 for Mac OS X 10.4 fixes more than a dozen vulnerabilities, at least one of which was publicly disclosed more than a year ago. Like many of the others being plugged, the hole gave criminals the ability to remotely control a user's machine. Users of Leopard, the OS X version released in late October, are not susceptible.

Screenshot of QuickTime update window

We fired up QuickTime on a PC and promptly received a popup window alerting us that the update "is highly recommended." But nowhere is there any mention of vulnerabilities that can be milked by a cyber criminal halfway around the world. We've yet to install either update on a Mac, but according to this post on Ryan Naraine's Zero Day blog, the Java update similarly omits any mention of security vulnerabilities.

Screenshot of Java update notice

This failure to plainly warn end users is unfortunate. While techies who frequent publications like El Reg are likely to know about these critical security bugs, we doubt average Joes have any idea. How many mainstream users, we wonder, will blow off these updates because Apple is too proud to admit two of its products have security vulnerabilities?

Update

Several reader comments have claimed there are factual inaccuracies in the above story. For support, these readers point to the security alert Apple provides for QuickTime 7.3.1 for Mac. It's great Apple is warning that it's latest QuickTime for Mac fixes security bugs. Two facts remain:

1) As the screenshot to the right makes clear, Mac users who don't read tech pubs have no reason to believe the latest Java update has anything to do with security. A reasonable person could read that alert and think there's no real rush in installing the patch.

2) The alert PC users get for QuickTime 7.3.1 similarly makes no mention of security issues. This omission is bad for the same reason.

3) The comment that these vulnerabilities only crash Macs is flat-out wrong. Even Apple plainly admits these vulnerabilities allow remote execution of arbitrary code, and private researchers have also written exploit code that demonstrates this. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
Desperate VXers enslave FREEZERS in DDoS bot
Updated Spike malware targets Asia
Heatmiser digital thermostat users: For pity's sake, DON'T SWITCH ON the WI-FI
A stranger turns up YOUR heat with default password 1234
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.