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Hackers plot 'Apple bug month'

One flaw per day throughout January

On 1 January 2007, two security researchers will begin publishing details of security vulnerabilities in Apple's products. Their plan is to disclose one bug per day for the entire month, they said yesterday.

The project is being launched by an independent security researcher, Kevin Finisterre, and a hacker known as LMH, who declined to reveal his identity.

Some of the bugs "might represent a significant risk", LMH said in an email interview. "Others have a lower impact on security. We are trying to develop working exploits for every issue we find."

The two hackers plan to disclose bugs in the Mac OS X kernel as well as in software such as Safari, iTunes, iPhoto and QuickTime, LMH said. Some of the bugs will also affect versions of Apple's software designed to run on Microsoft's Windows OS (operating system), he added.

LMH was one of the brains behind the recent Month of Kernel Bugs project, which exposed flaws at the core of several different OSes. It was inspired by an earlier effort, called the Month of Browser Bugs, which was kicked off in July.

This latest Apple project is being launched to raise awareness of security vulnerabilities in Apple's products and to "stomp smugness", Finisterre said via email.

While the Macintosh is generally considered to be more secure than the Windows PC, many security researchers believe that this reputation is not attributable to any superior security practices on the part of Apple. They say attackers have been deterred by the Mac OS X's more secure Unix kernel and the product's less widespread adoption.

Apple enthusiasts and security researchers have been at odds since last August, when David Maynor and Jon Ellch claimed to have discovered a flaw that affected Apple's wireless device drivers. They played a video at the Black Hat conference demonstrating how this flaw could be used to run unauthorised code on a MacBook. However, their claims have been slammed because the demonstration used a third-party wireless card rather than the one that ships with the MacBook, and because the two hackers still have not published the code used in their attack.

LMH said the Apple community's negative response to Maynor and Ellch's claims played a role in the decision to launch the Month of Apple bugs.

"I was shocked by the reaction of some so-called 'Apple fans'," he said. "I can't understand why some people react badly to disclosure of issues in their system of choice. That helps to improve its security."

A similar effort to disclose flaws in Oracle's software had to be abandoned before it was ever launched last month. The man behind the Week of Oracle bugs, Cesar Cerrudo, of Argeniss Information Security, said he pulled the plug when it became clear that the project could damage the relationship between one of his customers and Oracle. "This customer realised that they could have had serious business problems, so they changed their mind and asked to cancel it," he said yesterday.

LMH said he didn't expect any legal problems from Apple. "I keep talking to a guy from the Apple security team and I'm willing to help whenever necessary," he said. "I'm far away from any illegal activity."

Apple, for its part, did not seem to be upset with the project. "We always welcome feedback on how to improve security on the Mac," said Anuj Nayar, an Apple spokesman.


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