Anti-malware group scolds Apple over Safari 'carpet bomb'

StopBadware.org sees problem as a security issue; Apple doesn't

An anti-malware organization has called on Apple to beef up its Safari Web browser to protect users from exploits that could let attackers download malicious code to a Mac or Windows user's desktop.

Stopbadware.org, a group founded by Google, Chinese computer maker Lenovo and Sun Microsystems, on Monday asked Apple to reconsider its refusal to address the flaw as a security problem.

"StopBadware.org believes that users should have control over software being downloaded to their computers, and we encourage Apple to reconsider its stance and treat this as the security issue that it is," Stopbadware.org said in an appeal posted to its Web site.

The group's concern centered around an issue made public a week ago by Nitesh Dhanjani, a security researcher and the co-author of the book Network Security Tools. In a post to his own blog last week, Dhanjani spelled out what he called a "carpet bomb" attack possible via Safari.

According to Dhanjani, attackers could take advantage of the fact that Safari lacks an option to require a user's permission to download a file. Those attackers, Dhanjani claimed, could populate a malicious site with rogue code that in turn would automatically litter a user's desktop with malware.

Although Dhanjani praised Apple's security team for its rapid response to his queries, he also noted that the US-based computer and consumer electronics maker passed on updating Safari to lock out such attacks.

After he suggested that Apple add a setting to Safari that could be toggled to ask the user before downloads are allowed, Dhanjani said he received this reply from the company's security group: "...the ability to have a preference to 'Ask me before downloading anything' is a good suggestion. We can file that as an enhancement request for the Safari team."

However, the issue is not a security problem, said Apple. "Please note that we are not treating this as a security issue, but a further measure to raise the bar against unwanted downloads."

Other browsers, including Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox, include options that prompt users before initiating downloads of some or all file types.

"Assuming Nitesh's analysis is accurate, 'unwanted downloads,' as Apple calls them, represent a serious security threat to users, who can be easily tricked into executing a malicious file," argued Stopbadware.org.

The group has rebuked Apple before. In March, when Apple started using its software update utility to push Safari 3.1 to Windows users, Stopbadware.org first noted the move, then later said that, following its usual practice, it had notified Apple it would soon issue a "badware" alert for the company's Software Update.

The day before Stopbadware.org was set to release that alert, Apple modified how the updater offered Safari 3.1, separating updates for already-installed programs from offers to install new software.

Apple did not reply to a request for comment on its security team's decision against adding a user-approval option to Safari.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?