Apple has released a security update for Mac OS X that patches 55 bugs and marks the largest update by Apple in nearly a year.
The security release, which is the first from Apple this year, patched 48 security vulnerabilities in the company's operating system and its components, four in Apple's implementation of Sun Microsystems's Java, two non-security flaws it admitted it had introduced with faulty code in Mac OS X 10.5.6, and one fix it said was a "proactive security measure".
The majority of the bugs - 32 altogether - were in open-source components or software not originally crafted by Apple, as in the case of the quartet of Java flaws. One of the patches fixes a flaw in Safari - Apple's web browser - that prompted a security researcher to blast the company for a half-hearted approach to security
According to Brian Masterbrook, one of the three researchers Apple credited with reporting the Safari bug, Apple had information about the flaw more than seven months ago. "After six months passed without a fix, I decided to post a warning on January 11, 2009, due to my judgement that this issue could be exploited at any time as long as it remained unfixed," Masterbrook said in a blog, after Apple had delivered its updates.
Masterbrook had posted some information about the bug, as well as a workaround to temporarily disable the RSS feed feature in the browser, in a January 11 warning.
The RSS vulnerability - present in both the Mac and Windows versions of the browser - could be used to introduce attack code from a malicious website. All criminals had to do, said Masterbrook, was dupe users into visiting such a site. Attacks based on tempting users to a rogue site are commonplace on the internet, although the vast majority of them are aimed at Windows users.
"This vulnerability...does not require intricate knowledge of the processor or operating system to exploit," Masterbrook said. "I discovered it accidentally, which indicates that this issue could also be discovered by others. These two factors should have indicated to Apple that this vulnerability carried a high risk."
He took Apple to task for the way it handles reports of security vulnerabilities, and patches its software. "It took seven months for Apple to patch this latest vulnerability in Safari, despite numerous opportunities for it to be addressed in updates that were already scheduled," he said.
"OS X users are at this point in the unenviable situation of hoping that Apple starts taking these issues more seriously before phishing exploits, drive-by malware, and viruses become widespread on the platform."
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