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What took you so long Apple? 26 remote exec bugs die in OS X Safari

Cupertino browser update catches up with Google Chrome WebCore patches

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Apple has fixed 27 vulnerabilities in its Safari web browser for OS X computers, 18 of which were uncovered by Google's Chrome Security Team. All but one of the flaws allow miscreants to execute arbitrary code on victims' computers.

The iPhone giant said its Safari 7.0.3 and 6.1.3 update will close the holes, which were found in its WebKit-derived browser engine. Apple has released the update for Safari on Macs running OS X Mountain Lion and Mavericks.

Users are advised to fire up Apple's Software Update tool as soon as possible. Last month's iOS 7.1 update for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches fixed several of the vulnerabilities that were also in mobile Safari. As for Safari on Windows, Apple dropped support for that long ago.

All but one of the vulnerabilities killed today involve memory corruption bugs which, if exploited by a specially crafted website, could allow an attacker to crash the software, or execute arbitrary code on the victim's machine – which is a great starting point for injecting malware onto the computer.

The remaining bug allows a hacker running code in the browser's secure sandbox to bypass restrictions and read arbitrary files on the system. Its discovery was credited to researcher Ian Beer, who worked with the Google Project Zero campaign.

If you're wondering why Google takes such an interest in Apple's software, the Blink engine used by Google Chrome is a fork of the WebCore component of the open-source Webkit, and Safari also uses WebKit. Even though Blink has veered off on its own development path, bugs found in Blink's WebCore may also exist in Safari's WebCore.

For example, one Safari bug patched today, CVE-2013-2871 is a WebCore use-after-free() blunder previously discovered in Chrome pre-28.0.1500.71. Another, CVE-2013-2926, is a use-after-free() vuln that was found in Chrome pre-30.0.1599.101.

And so on and so forth. Readers will note a lot of the holes date back to 2013 when Google fixed them in Chrome, revealing the delay in Safari picking up Chromium's updates.

Funnily enough, though, one bug in Safari, now patched, was exploited by Google just last month to run an arbitrary app as root at the Pwn2Own hacking contest at CanSecWest 2014: Google revealed the flaw to bag $32,000 for charity. The ID for that flaw, CVE-2014-1300, was reserved on January 8, 2014, although a Google engineer said the web king shared details of the bug with Apple before the event.

The other holes closed today were found by VUPEN and others working with HP's Zero Day Initiative, and Apple staffers and independent researchers. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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