Print 41 comment(s) - last by mmcdonalataocd.. on Jun 17 at 11:51 AM

Fortunately no serious damage was done during the meantime

With close to 75 million OS X distributions reportedly in the wild, triple the number two years ago, Apple has to start taking security more seriously.  Fortunately for Apple users, while security researchers regularly demonstrate OS X exploits, the Black Hat community remains rather apathetic to attacking the Mac community.

The latest highlight in a growing picture that OS X may not be as secure as some think came in May when security firm Intego, which makes security software for Macs, warned users of a Java flaw in the OS X Java distribution which could allow Java applets to execute malicious code.  Intego complained, "Apple has been aware of this vulnerability for at least five months, since it was made public, but has neglected to issue a security update to protect against this issue."

The flaw, was originally found by Sami Koivu, who reported it to Sun Microsystems on August 1st 2008.  The vulnerability also affected OpenJDK, GIJ, icedtea and Sun's JRE, which share the same core classes with Apple's Java SE and J2SE.  A patch was issued by Sun on December 3rd 2008, with most of these distributions quickly incorporated it.

Months went by with no action from Apple, though.  Programmer Landon Fuller aired proof-of-concept code of how to use the exploit to attack Apple OS X installs in May.  Still, Apple did not incorporate the patch.  States Mr. Fuller, "Unfortunately, it seems that many Mac OS X security issues are ignored if the severity of the issue is not adequately demonstrated.  Due to the fact that an exploit for this issue is available in the wild, and the vulnerability has been public knowledge for six months, I have decided to release my own proof of concept to demonstrate the issue."

Now a month later Apple has finally released a patch for Java on OS X 10.5 Leopard (the latest version) and 10.4 Tiger.  Describes Apple, "Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 4 delivers improved reliability, security, and compatibility for Java SE 6, J2SE 5.0 and J2SE 1.4.2 on Mac OS X v10.5."

The patch for OS X 10.5 can be found here, while the patch for OS X 10.4 can be found here.

This is not the first serious door that Apple has left open.  Last September a researcher going by the pseudonym "Securfrog" published code to crash Apple's QuickTime video player after Apple ignored a glaring flaw for months.  Similarly, a DNS flaw discovered by Dan Kaminsky was only fixed months later.

In Apple's defense, Microsoft also occasionally is slow to patch issues -- such as the recent patch of a long-standing Microsoft Office bug.  However, when it comes to security flaws in web accessible content -- such as QuickTime, Java, or Safari -- Microsoft's track record is much better than Apple's.  These are the types of content most frequently exploited to attack machines over the web.

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It's all about perception
By corduroygt on 6/16/2009 9:22:50 AM , Rating: 5
Windows has a bad reputation when it comes to security earned from 98 and Pre-SP2 XP days, and although MS has been doing a good job when it comes to fixing vulnerabilities. I've even heard from an Apple fanboy that because Apple releases fewer security patches compared to Microsoft, its OS must be more secure!!!! Same idiotic perception also applies to GM and Ford, I find their later models to be just as good or better than Honda's and Toyota's. However, the public doesn't think so, and your resale goes in the crapper.

RE: It's all about perception
By Bender 123 on 6/16/2009 9:41:53 AM , Rating: 5
The answer to your comment is this:

Fortunately for Apple users, while security researchers regularly demonstrate OS X exploits, the Black Hat community remains rather apathetic to attacking the Mac community.

The reason why Apple has a good name is because Haxors just don't care about it...Not enough user base to bother.

Security through Obscurity...

RE: It's all about perception
By MrPeabody on 6/16/2009 10:42:56 AM , Rating: 3
I've wondered a bit about this. Apple stereotypes include (a) an excess of disposable income, (b) an active indifference toward computer security, and (c) demonstrably insecure computers.

You'd think some enterprising young black hat out there would try to exploit this apparently-untapped "market". Yes, the Apple user base is comparitively small, but so is the competition for ill-gotten gains.

This is not to advocate any illegal tomfoolery by any means. I'm just a bit surprised.

RE: It's all about perception
By TheSpaniard on 6/16/2009 10:45:33 AM , Rating: 3
apparently there is some porn virus running around now that targets macs...

RE: It's all about perception
By Cappadocious on 6/16/2009 2:08:31 PM , Rating: 2

"Whatever those keys are made of, they are non-stick"

I know it doesn't add anything more then humor to the discussion, but I thought it was appropriate. Gotta love Dave Chappelle.

RE: It's all about perception
By nycromes on 6/16/2009 12:40:25 PM , Rating: 2
It is the same thing that companies do with certain marketing techniques. Send out mass mailings and you might only get 5% response. Thats 5% of whatever group you target, so do you target a group of 200,000 or a group of 20,000,000? Obviously, its the latter.

I see what you mean about easy targets, but I don't agree about your point (a). Many of the people that I know that are Apple fans don't have an excess of disposable income. They just choose to spend their money on Apple products.

Either way, that will not last forever. Eventually someone will write something really nasty for OSX if not for any other reason than that they can. I hope that people on both sides become more security concious. Neither OSX nor Windows is secure, especially when the user base consists of any users that aren't careful.

RE: It's all about perception
By GodisanAtheist on 6/16/2009 3:36:45 PM , Rating: 4
You and I are thinking alike.

People keep saying, over and over, that the Mac community is too small to write a virus for, oh would you rather infect billions or ten and the same rhetoric over and over. But the Mac community really isn't THAT small, that those guys are smug enough for the other 90% that use PC's and just accept viruses as a part of life.

So what people are effectively saying is that there are no enterprising hackers out there that want to make a real name for themselves being "The Scourge of Jobs" or just to take satisfaction in laying low some folks with a real superiority complex?

We're in trouble if even our hackers rely on windows welfare to get by... where's the entrepreneurial spirit guys?

RE: It's all about perception
By misuspita on 6/17/2009 2:45:44 AM , Rating: 2
I've got a brand new Conspiracy Theory!

What if all the virus writers are actually Jobs Holy Armada to crush the Empire of Windows? Paid to do damage to the Enemy! I mean, that could be the exact answer as to why the apples don't get any worms (sic!) or viruses, only Windows machines do.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 6/17/2009 11:51:32 AM , Rating: 3
It is not that the market size is so small, or medium-sized etc, so much as the fact that the virus will need to travel on compatible operating systems. It would be like pond scum breaking out in one of your neighbor's pools. Unlikely to spread to your pool since they are not connected. Now if it broke out in the ocean (oh-chin) then it could travel whereever it wants.

The disconnected Mac community just cannot propagate viruses well. The connected MS community can.

RE: It's all about perception
By xti on 6/16/2009 11:26:16 AM , Rating: 3
its funny how much people dont understand the simple point that you pointed out.

a hacker...going out of his way and risking w/e risks there are, can write malicious code to affect:

a bajillion PC users
all 14 mac users.

bang for a buck, and all that jazz.

RE: It's all about perception
By xti on 6/16/2009 11:27:06 AM , Rating: 2
meant hacker/scripter/etc, in before the nit-picking.

By deltadeltadelta on 6/16/2009 5:47:14 PM , Rating: 3
Ah yes, security by obscurity. I have had endless debates with colleagues and friends about whether Mac OS X is fundamentally better or more secure or harder to infect with a virus. The answer is no! It's just not as targeted because as Windows:
1) More hackers use PCs and are more familiar with their development tools, scripting, etc.
2) Any OS could be compromised. It's about knowledge of how and the aforementioned market share of Windows. Sure, are you less likely to get infected with an exploit today on a Mac--you bet, but not because it is "better" but because it is a less-appealing target (right now).

RE: It's all about perception
By rudy on 6/16/2009 1:30:41 PM , Rating: 2
The mass ignorant public is always extremely slow to catch on to a company improvement, dumb publications like consumer reports do not help. This is however normal. Look at how long it took the average joe to respect AMD, by the time they caught on that AMD was a good company AMD was ending the life cycle of the X2 its most dominant processor and intel was now back in the drivers seat. And all that could be purchased was the inept phenoms. I expect that when AMD catches up again the mass public will finally be talking about how bad AMD is and miss the boat once again.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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