Apple Patches iOS, OS X, and Safari on Mega Monday
Apple on Monday updated both OS X and iOS, patching 19 security vulnerabilities in the former and 44 in the latter.
OS X 10.9.3, aka “Mavericks,” and iOS 7.1.2 each contained several non-security fixes as well.
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Mavericks received 19 patches, 11 of them rated critical with the description that an exploit may be able to execute “arbitrary code,” Apple-speak for the most serious tier of vulnerabilities. The separate Security Update 2014-003 addressed three bugs in Lion and eight in Mountain Lion, the precursors to Mavericks which shipped in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Because Apple has stopped shipping security updates for OS X Snow Leopard, there was no corresponding update for the 2009 edition that still powers about one in every six Macs.
Nine of the 19 Mavericks vulnerabilities — and 8 of the 11 critical flaws — were reported to Apple by Ian Beer, a Google security engineer.
Along with OS X Mavericks 10.9.4 and Security Update 2014-003, Apple updated Safari to 6.1.5 for Lion and Mountain Lion, and to 7.0.5 for Mavericks, patching 12 vulnerabilities in the browser, 10 of them critical.
“Visiting a maliciously crafted website may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution,” Apple said in describing the impact of 10 of the browser bugs. Another way to put that would be to call successful exploits “drive-by download” attacks. In a drive-by, an unpatched browser can be compromised — and malware planted on the machine — simply by its user steering it at a rogue or hijacked site.
iOS 7.1.2 patched an even larger number of vulnerabilities than either of the other Monday updates: Apple fixed 44 flaws, 30 of them critical, in iOS. Most of the bugs were located in WebKit, the open-source browser engine that powers Safari on iOS (and OS X).
On the non-security side, Apple fixed a small number of bugs in both OS X and iOS.
For the Mac, Apple said it had fixed a long-standing problem that prevented some systems from automatically connecting to known Wi-Fi networks, and improved the reliability of the OS to wake from sleep state. The first of those issues has generated some extensive threads on Apple’s support forums, including one that began last November. By Monday, that thread had over 140 comments, and had been viewed more than 55,000 times, the latter a good indictor of the problem’s widespread prevalence.
Several Computerworld staffers’ Macs had exhibited similar symptoms after starting or restarting their Macs. With Monday’s update installed, the Wi-Fi connection problem seemed to disappear.
For iOS, the mobile operating system for the iPhone and iPad, the non-security changes included improved connectivity with Apple’s iBeacons, and a fix for a data transfer bug when using third-party hardware accessories, such as a barcode scanner.
If Apple sticks to its practice of the last two years, Monday’s OS X updates will either be the next-to-last or second-to-last issued before OS X 10.10, aka “Yosemite,” ships this fall. After Yosemite launches — or possibly just before — Apple will probably stop serving OS X Lion with security updates, just as it halted those for Snow Leopard last September, several weeks before Mavericks’ debut.
According to metrics vendor Net Applications, Lion powered just 12% of all Macs which went online in May.
Mavericks 10.9.4 and Security Update 2014-003 can be retrieved by selecting “Software Update…” from the Apple menu, or by opening the Mac App Store application and clicking the Update icon at the top right.
iOS 7.1.2 can be downloaded over the air or through iTunes. To initiate an over-the-air update on an iPhone, for instance, users must tap the “Settings” icon, then the “General” button on the resulting screen. Tapping “Software Update” will kick off the update process.