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Tardy Apple finally releases DNS patch

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Apple has finally gotten around to defending against a high-profile Domain Name System flaw, days after security researchers called it out for dragging its heels on releasing a patch.

The Mac OS X security update issued by Apple on Thursday defends against the infamous DNS poisoning issue, discovered by security researcher Dan Kaminsky, by implementing source port randomisation. The update addresses the Apple end of a cross vendor patching effort by updating the Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) DNS software bundled with Apple's operating system.

Patching efforts to thwart cache poisoning exploits, which arise from security shortcomings in the DNS protocol itself rather than coding errors by individual vendors, began on 8 July. The Internet Systems Consortium, which maintains BIND, was among the vendors that worked together with Kaminsky in secret beforehand and made patches available from day one. Apple's update some three weeks later comes only after the flaw has become the target of active exploitation by hackers.

Successful exploitation of the flaw allows miscreants to redirect surfers to potentially malicious websites in a way that leaves users unaware anything has gone awry. Security watchers hammered Apple for failing to do its bit earlier this week, a factor that may well have accelerated the availability of Apple's update.

Apple's Security Update 08-005 also addresses a range of lower profile security flaws, including flaws in CardonCore and CoreGraphics that each pose a code injection risk, as explained in an overview by security notification firm Secunia here. The software also includes an upgrade to PHP 5.2.6, available as a stand-alone update since 1 May, and fixes for flaws in Apple's implementation of OpenSSL.

Various flavours of the update are available for systems running Mac OS X Server versions 10.4 and 10.5 as well as Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Mac OS X 10.5.4. Apple's summary of the update can be found here.

Apple's developers have had a lot on their plate of late - not least fine-tuning version 2 of the iPhone software and dealing with a series of problems involving the .Mac-to-MobileMe migration - a factor that may account for its delay in updating its software to deal with the DNS patch, Apple watchers note. ®

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