Apple scuttles NTP flaw in OS X – with 'first ever' silent auto update

Don't start that holiday just yet, admins…

Apple has slipped out an update to address the Network Time Protocol (NTP) vulnerability in its OS X operating system. And it seems the patch will be applied automatically and silently to vulnerable machines.

Apple said the fix will protect Macs from the recently publicized flaw in the handling of NTP connections. The vulnerability, when exploited, allows a miscreant to execute arbitrary and malicious code on a Mac remotely from across the internet.

Apple recommends users of OS X Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite install the patch – if your OS hasn't already applied the fix. Some users have installed the fix by hand via the Software Update mechanism, whereas Apple says it pushed out and installed the security update silently.

“In light of a security threat to UNIX-based systems including OS X, we’ve used an automatic security feature to update OS X systems and protect our users as quickly as possible,” Apple spokesman Bill Evans said in a statement on Tuesday.

”The update is seamless — it doesn’t even require a restart — and addresses critical security vulnerabilities in a component of OS X called the network time protocol (NTP).”

Apple said the update improves error checking in order to catch malformed packets before they trigger a buffer overflow.

Administrators who are not sure whether a system is patched can check their version of NTP with the Terminal command: what /usr/sbin/ntpd. Users running Mountain Lion should be able to see ntp-77.1.1 as the updated build, while for Mavericks the patched NTP version will be 88.1.1 and for Yosemite 92.5.1.

Apple credited discovery and report of the flaw to Google Security Team member Stephen Roettger. The vulnerability patched in the update is currently being listed under CVE-2014-9295. ®

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