Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Apple unloads dozens of fixes for OS X

Still, of the 44 flaws addressed, only a handful are critical, according to security experts.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
2 min read
Apple Computer has released what seems to be one of its larger security updates for Mac OS X, doling out fixes for 44 flaws.

Still, only a handful of the vulnerabilities are of major concern, according to security analysts. The package of fixes was released Monday.

"This one is a big update. I don't recall seeing as many updates as we see today," said Thomas Kristensen, Secunia's chief technology officer.

By comparison, Apple last May released an update for 20 vulnerabilities and in March distributed an update for a dozen flaws.

But Kristensen noted that, with the new update, only a few of the 44 vulnerabilities are of great concern. He also said that 25 percent of the patches involve older vulnerabilities that have yet to lead to exploit code being developed by attackers. Still, Secunia is rating the overall update as "highly critical."

Apple declined to comment on the vulnerabilities and referred all questions to its security update.

The flaws affect Apple's Mac OS 10.3.9 and 10.4.2 operating system software and related server software.

Kristensen said that some vulnerabilities involving AppKit and Safari are critical.

AppKit, which is used to open RTFs (rich text files) and Word documents, has flaws that allow a remote attacker to create a malicious file that results in a buffer overflow. That in turn can lead to arbitrary code being executed on a user's system.

Apple, however, notes that only some applications use AppKit, and that Microsoft Word for Mac OS X is not vulnerable.

Flaws in Safari, meanwhile, can allow an attacker to bypass the browser's security checks and execute arbitrary commands, when the user clicks on a maliciously crafted rich text file.

Another flaw, a vulnerability in Apple's Sever Manager D, a modified version of Apache, is also being considered critical by some.

That flaw can result in a buffer overflow and remote execution of code by an attacker, with no user interaction, said Frank Nagle, assistant director of vulnerability aggregation for iDefense, a VeriSign company.

Although Apple lists other security flaws that could be exploited by a remote attacker, they are "less critical," according to Secunia.

For example, two vulnerabilities in Apache 2 could be exploited by a remote attacker to either bypass security restrictions or launch a denial-of-service attack.

But Apple did not set Apache 2 by default, so it is less of an issue than it would be if the same vulnerabilities affected Apache 1.3, Nagle said.