Security Flaws Make Macs Vulnerable To Attacks

Security firm @stake warns of serious Mac OS X vulnerabilities.
Security research firm @stake is warning Macintosh users about three security problems with the Mac OS X 10.2.8 and previous versions. It ranks two of the flaws as high.

The first advisory, "Long argv[] Buffer Overflow," warns that an attacker could possibly crash Mac OS X and execute commands as root.

The Systemic Insecure File Permissions advisory states some applications on the vulnerable Mac OS X systems are installed with insecure file permissions and are globally writable. This lets attackers with file-system access to an OS X machine replace binaries and obtain additional privileges from unsuspecting users, who may run the replaced version of the binary.

The third vulnerability, Arbitrary File Overwrite via Core Files, enables attackers with certain access rights to overwrite arbitrary files and read certain files. The @stake advisory warns that this vulnerability could result in sensitive information such as authentication credentials being compromised.

There is no patch available for these vulnerabilities. The @stake advisory recommends that users upgrade to the Mac OS X Panther operating system, which was released this week.

An Apple Computer spokesperson could not say where the company would issue a fix, but Apple is working on a statement about the issue.

David Goldsmith, director of research for @stake, said there's no indication from Apple that it "was going to release a patch for these issues," and that @stake started working with Apple regarding the security problems "at least 30 days ago."

For more detailed information, the advisories are available at

Apple is also warning users about another flaw in the Mac OS X software, a remotely exploitable flaw caused by an error in the implementation of QuickTime Java for Mac OS X Server 10.3 and Mac OS X 10.3. More information about this flaw and a patch is available in Apple's Security Update 2003-10-28.

The flurry of security flaws in Apple's OS X shows "there's no piece of commercial software that doesn't have security problems," says John Pescatore, a security analyst at Gartner. As to whether the company should patch these flaws, he says, "Apple should definitely issue a patch, even if the new operating system is shipping."