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Apple issues major patch updates for QuickTime, iPod touch

Also fixes flaws in iTunes and Bonjour, patches iPod DNS bug

September 10, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple Inc. yesterday patched 20 security vulnerabilities in its QuickTime media player, iTunes music store client, iPod touch device and Bonjour network software. More than half of the bugs could let hackers hijack computers or the iPod.

In four separate security updates, Apple fixed nine flaws in QuickTime, seven in the iPod touch's software, and two each in iTunes and Bonjour for Windows.

Secunia APS rated the QuickTime and iPod touch bugs as "highly critical," its second-highest threat ranking. The Copenhagen-based vulnerability tracker pegged the Bonjour and iTunes flaws as "less critical," the second-lowest ranking.

Tuesday's update to QuickTime 7.5.5 was Apple's fifth this year for the problem-plagued media player. Apple has plugged a total of 30 holes in the program in 2008, most recently in early June.

Five of the nine vulnerabilities affect both the Mac and Windows versions, while four affect only QuickTime for Windows XP and Vista. Apple described eight of the bugs as allowing "arbitrary code execution," a phrase it uses to describe its most serious threats. Unlike vendors such as Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp., Apple doesn't rank the bugs it fixes with a scoring or labeling system.

The patches address vulnerabilities in how QuickTime parses PICT images, QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) files, QuickTime movies, H.264-encoded movies and Indeo-encoded video, according to Apple's accompanying advisory. Similar such flaws were also patched in June, when Apple quashed different bugs in PICT parsing and Indeo video handling.

A majority of the vulnerabilities were reported to Apple via bug bounty programs run by 3com Inc.'s TippingPoint and VeriSign Inc.'s iDefense research arms.

Of the flaws fixed in the iPod touch, Bonjour for Windows and iTunes, the most serious were patches for the iPod's open-source FreeType font engine and its Safari Web browser. The four vulnerabilities in those two programs could be used by attackers to introduce rogue code and possibly compromise the device, according to Apple. The iPod touch, which was revamped just yesterday, is an iPhone lookalike that can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi.

Both the iPod touch and Bonjour for Windows were also patched to stymie potential DNS (Domain Name System) cache-poisoning attacks. The DNS bug, disclosed by researcher Dan Kaminsky in early July, can be used by attackers to replace legitimate addresses in the Internet's traffic-routing system with bogus destinations. The tactic is most often used by identity thieves who try to trick users into divulging confidential information. The DNS cache-poisoning vulnerability was first exploited in late July.

Although Apple partially patched the problem in its Mac operating system on July 31, researchers maintained that the fix didn't patch the vulnerability on Mac clients, although it did prevent attacks on servers running Apple's OS X.

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