Microsoft increases pressure on Apple to fix Safari blended threat

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Jun 3, 2008

'Carpet bombing' vulnerability more serious than Apple claims, MS warns.

Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer has come under frequent criticism for security vulnerabilities, has issued a security advisory alerting users of arch-rival Apple's Safari browser to a potential security threat.

The issue is a blended threat which combines quirks in both the Apple browser product and the Windows desktop, and can lead Safari users to seeing their desktops plastered with files and possibly risk execution of unwanted software, if maliciously crafted sites are browsed to.

The Safari browser lacks user controls over downloading of content, which can lead to the desktop being peppered with files as instructions on web pages are obeyed without question. It would not be difficult, researchers have argued, to attach fake icons to downloaded executables and trick users into executing them in the belief that they are innocent files or system staples such as 'My Computer'.

Apple's reported response to queries from Nitesh Dhanjani, the researcher who spotted the flaw, included the assertion that they are 'not treating this as a security issue'. This attitude caused considerable outcry when the issue first emerged two weeks ago, and now Microsoft has heightened awareness of the danger and advised users of Safari on Windows platforms to minimise their use of the browser until a fix is released. Currently, this is not expected to come from Apple at least until the next full version of Safari, due by September, but the wording of the Microsoft alert hinted that they may possibly implement their own means of reducing the danger at some point should Apple fail to do so.

Apple and Safari have recently been embroiled in security controversy after the browser was included as an unsolicited part of the Apple update system. Nitesh Dhajani's original alert on the 'carpet bombing' problem is here, and Microsoft's advisory to users is here.

Posted on 03 June 2008 by Virus Bulletin



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