Revealed: Apple’s Unpatched Mac Security Flaw


Is your Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) computer vulnerable to this OS security flaw? According to ArsTechnica, security researchers have recently developed another method for exploiting a previously discovered bug in OS X.

The vulnerability is related to the so-called “sudo” flaw that was exposed five months ago. That flaw allowed attackers to bypass normal password authentication procedures by resetting the computer clock to January 1, 1970. According to ArsTechnica, that date is considered the operating system’s beginning date and is also known as the Unix epoch.

After using the sudo command and resetting the date, an attacker can trick a computer into turning over root privileges without ever using a password. Although this vulnerability has been known for five months, Metasploit developers recently created a module that makes it even easier to exploit this bug on Macs.

ArsTechnica notes that Macs are particularly vulnerable to this exploit since it does not require a root password to change the computer clock. Many iterations of OS X remain vulnerable to this security flaw, including the 10.7 version through the current 10.8.4 version.

On the other hand, ArsTechnica points out that a Mac computer is only vulnerable under certain conditions. First, the end-user who is logged in must already have administrator privileges. Second, before anyone is able to exploit the sudo flaw, the attacker must first gain remote or physical access to the computer.

However, if an attacker does meet these conditions, he or she could seriously compromise a computer system. “The bug is significant because it allows any user-level compromise to become root, which in turn exposes things like clear-text passwords from Keychain and makes it possible for the intruder to install a permanent rootkit,” explained Metasploit project founder HD Moore via ArsTechnica.

Apple’s operating systems generally have a reputation for being more secure than others. For example, a recent study from security research firm Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR) found that 92 percent of the malware detected by the Juniper Networks Mobile Threat Center was focused on Android-based mobile devices. However, the sudo security flaw demonstrates that no system can be 100 percent secure.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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