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Apple fixes Flash snafu in Snow Leopard, patches 33 bugs in Leopard

Mac users get third and fourth updates this week, but Safari may be next, says researcher

September 10, 2009 11:01 PM ET

Computerworld - Less than two weeks after Apple launched Snow Leopard, the company today issued the new operating system's first security update. In a separate upgrade, Apple patched 33 vulnerabilities in 2007's Leopard, and about half as many in the even older Tiger.

Today's updates were the third and fourth from Apple in the last two days. Wednesday, Apple delivered security fixes for the iPhone and iPod Touch, as well as another upgrade for its QuickTime media player.

"It's another sneak attack," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security, referring to the string of updates. "Actually, it's almost what we've come to expect from Apple," he added. Unlike rival OS maker Microsoft, which releases most of its security upgrades on a pre-set monthly schedule, Apple ships its patches whenever they're ready to go out the door.

The Snow Leopard 10.6.1 update's security content consisted solely of an upgrade for Adobe's Flash Player, which was bumped to the up-to-date version 10.0.32.18.

Users and security researchers had taken Apple to task for not only shipping Snow Leopard with an outdated and vulnerable version of Flash Player, but also for silently "downgrading" once-secure editions when Macs were updated to the new operating system.

Mac OS X 10.6.1 packaged nine patches for Flash vulnerabilities, some of which could result in "arbitrary code execution," Apple-speak of a critical flaw that attackers could exploit to grab control of a Mac. According to the corresponding Adobe security advisory, six of the nine flaws could be considered critical.

Apple released the first update for Snow Leopard less than two weeks after it debuted the operating system on Aug. 28, a slightly faster pace than in 2007, when Apple took about three weeks to issue the first security update for Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard.

Adobe updated Flash Player to 10.0.32.18 in late July to plug a dozen vulnerabilities, including three inherited from flawed Microsoft development code -- obviously, those were not present in the Mac version -- and one that hackers had been exploiting for at least a week, which did apply to the Mac.

"Having to release a whole OS update just to patch one third-party component, that's a bit heavy-handed," said Storms. "Apple had to go through one whole engineering cycle to fix Flash."

As if to echo Storms' point, Apple noted that the 10.6.1 update -- which admittedly includes fixes for eight non-security issues -- tipped the scale at 75MB.

The Security Update 2009-005 for Leopard and Tiger was more traditional, patching 33 vulnerabilities in the former and 16 in the latter. Of the 33 bugs in Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard, 23 were tagged with Apple's "arbitrary code execution" phrase; 14 of the 16 flaws in Tiger were pegged the same way.



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