Apple patches hack challenge's QuickTime bug

The 12-day debate over the flaw comes to an end

Apple Inc. today released new versions of QuickTime for both Mac OS X and Windows to plug a hole discovered during a hack challenge last month.

QuickTime 7.1.6 patches the vulnerability exploited by Dino Dai Zovi on April 20 to break into a MacBook Pro at the CanSecWest security conference. For his efforts, Dai Zovi took home a $10,000 prize offered by TippingPoint Inc., which operates a bug bounty program called Zero Day Initiative.

The flaw lies in QuickTime's implementation of Java, said Apple's accompanying advisory. The bug could be exploited by duping users running a Java-enabled browser -- including Apple's own Safari, Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox and Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer -- to a malicious Web site. Systems running Mac OS X 10.3.9 or 10.4.9, as well as PCs with Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista were at risk of being hijacked if the music player program was present.

In its own advisory, TippingPoint pointed to the QuickTime Java extensions, "QTJava.dll," as the file containing the buggy code. Apple credited both Dai Zovi and TippingPoint in its advisory.

During the 12-day saga, the vulnerability was first reported to be in Safari and only on Mac OS X; within days, however, researchers confirmed that the bug could be exploited through other browsers and on Windows because QuickTime was the cause. A day later, rumors circulated that the exploit had been snatched at CanSecWest by grabbing packets transferred over a wireless network. Those reports were quickly discounted, however, by conference organizers.

As recently as earlier today, Gartner analysts slammed the practice of hosting public bug challenges, saying that such events violate the concept of "responsible disclosure." TippingPoint's security research manager disputed the argument, saying that the vulnerability and its exploit were never in the public domain.

Also today, Apple re-released last month's security update to fix a pair of problems introduced by the original, including one that dropped a wireless connection after a Mac OS X 10.3.9 system came out of sleep mode.

QuickTime 7.1.6 can be downloaded for Macs and Windows-based systems from Apple's Web site.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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