Another month, another monster Apple security update

42 fixes for Leopard, Tiger, Safari for Windows bring year's total to 196

Apple on Monday matched the patch count of last month's massive update, fixing 41 vulnerabilities in Mac OS X and updating the beta of its Windows browser to fix another.

Including Monday's fixes, Apple has patched approximately 200 bugs in the nine security updates it has issued so far during 2007. Four of the nine featured fixes for more than 40 different vulnerabilities.

Security Update 2007-009 plugged holes in Apple's own code and that of some of the open-source components it integrates with the Tiger and Leopard operating systems. Nearly half of the 41 vulnerabilities -- at least 17 -- were marked by Apple as capable of "arbitrary code execution," which is the company's way of saying an exploit could conceivably result in malware infiltrating a Mac or enabling a hacker hijack of the machine. Apple does not rank its software mistakes, but other vendors, such as Microsoft, usually label such vulnerabilities "critical."

Mac owners running Leopard, Mac OS X 10.5.1, received fixes for flaws in CFNetwork, CUPS, Flash Player Plug-in, Launch Services, Mail, perl, python, Quick Look, ruby, Safari, Samba, Shockwave Plug-in, Software Update and Spin Tracer. Tiger, or Mac OS X 10.4.11, was patched for all the above save the Quick Look patch, but was also received updates for Address Book, ColorSync, Core Foundation, Desktop Services, GNU Tar, iChat, IO Storage Family, Safari RSS, SMB, Spotlight, tcpdump, and XQuery.

The Flash Player fix was originally reported in October to Adobe Systems by Opera Software, the Norwegian browser maker, but the former had not produced a patched plug-in until today. Opera had fixed the vulnerability by updating its own browser earlier.

Another patch of note: one of the two for Mac OS X's Launch Services component. The bug it targets, which actually affects Apple Mail because it "may allow executable mail attachments to be run without warning when a user opens a mail attachment," according to Apple, was first fixed in March 2006, but was somehow overlooked when Apple built Leopard. Several security companies, including Symantec and Intego, a Mac-only vendor, blasted Apple for the oversight four weeks ago when the Heise Security Web site publicized the vulnerability.

Other important components repaired by Apple included Software Update, which could be exploited by a "man-in-the-middle attack" to introduce rogue code via the update service; Tiger's Spotlight search tool, which can be leveraged by a rigged Microsoft Excel spreadsheet file; and Tiger's iChat video conferencing program, which can be turned on by someone with access to the local network without the Mac owner's approval, possibly for use as a spy camera.

Like November's batch, several of Monday's vulnerabilities can be exploited by enticing users to malicious Web sites, a common practice among hackers attacking Windows-based systems.

Apple also updated the still-beta Windows version of Safari to fix a single flaw. Safari 3.0.4 patches a cross-site scripting vulnerability in the Windows edition to match a similar fix included in 2007-009 for the Mac version.

The security update can be downloaded manually from the Apple site, or retrieved and installed using Mac OS X's integrated update.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld

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