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Snow Leopard forces silent Flash downgrade

Bundled insecurity bungle

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Apple has bundled a vulnerable version of Flash with Snow Leopard.

As a result, Mac users who upgrade their operating system will be left exposed to Adobe Flash-based attacks - even if they had previously kept up to date with patches. The latest version of Flash Player for Mac is version 10.0.32.18. Applying Snow Leopard loads up the older, vulnerable version 10.0.23.1 of the software, irrespective of whatever version a user was previously running.

Worse still, users receive no indication that the change has taken place, as illustrated in a video by net security firm Sophos below.

"Mac users are not informed that Snow Leopard has downgraded their version of Flash without permission, and that they are now exposed to a raft of potential attacks and exploits which have been targeted on Adobe's software in recent months," writes Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos and a Mac user.

"Software suppliers can only include the latest version of bundled applications at the time the software development cycle goes gold but the least that Apple should have done is checked the latest version of Flash installed before downgrading it. Doing this without notice is doubly bad," he added.

Cluley urges Mac fans who have upgraded to Snow Leopard to double-check what version of Adobe Flash they are running. Upgrades, where necessary, can be obtained from Adobe's website here. The issue is important, because hackers have increasingly taken to basing attacks around flaws in Adobe's software over recent months. Adobe has responded to the increased threat by moving to regular security updates.

Security watchers have previously criticised Apple for missing an opportunity to reduce the danger posed by buffer-overflow attacks, a common class of security flaw, as previously reported here. A general comparison of Snow Leopard and Windows 7 can be found here. ®

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