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Apple skewered over missing DNS patch

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Apple has come under fire for failing to patch the critical Domain Name System (DNS) flaw which prompted a (rest of) industry wide response earlier this month.

For anyone just back from a trip up the Amazon, the discovery of a domain spoofing vulnerability by security researcher Dan Kaminsky sparked a massive patching effort that began on 8 July. Dozens of vendors - including Microsoft, Cisco, Ubuntu and the Internet Systems Consortium, which maintains BIND - released updates that mitigated against the risk of cache poisoning attacks, which stem from security shortcomings in the protocol itself rather than coding errors.

Kaminsky withheld details of the vulnerability in the internet's look up system, but the information soon leaked out through the efforts of other security researchers, prompting the confirmation of the nature of the flaw. Calls to update systems intensified after hackers developed exploits targeting the flaw. Successful exploitation of the flaw allows hackers to redirect surfers to potentially malicious websites, while the users have no idea that they are not in fact hooked up to their intended.

Patches are yet to arrive more than two weeks after the first warning of the vulnerability, sparking criticism from sections of the security community and Apple watchers (such as tidBITS here). The absence of a patch is most relevant for systems featuring Mac OS X server for domain name resolution.

Apple's software developers have clearly been very busy of late - not least with the launch of version 2 of the iPhone software, the Mac store and the .Mac-to-MobileMe migration.

Mac OS X servers use BIND, one of the most popular DNS implementations, patches for which were available as soon as Kaminsky published his initial alert. Porting the fix ought to be an easy enough job, but Apple is yet to get around to it. Meanwhile, the DNS flaw has become the target of active exploitation by hackers.

A blog posting by security tools firm Arbor Networks charts an increase in DNS "misuse" activity, such as a 49.8 per cent increase in single packet DNS version queries. Such queries, although they also have legitimate uses, potentially allow hackers to identify systems running older (vulnerable) software packages. Arbor has also uncovered persuasive (if not conclusive) evidence of an upsurge in cache poisoning attacks. ®

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