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Monday, 03 November 2014 10:33

Yosemite vulnerability takes root

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A privilege escalation vulnerability in OS X 10.10 Yosemite might not be fixed until next year.

News is spreading of a vulnerability in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, 10.9 Mavericks and 10.8 Mountain Lion discovered last month by Emil Kvarnhammar, a security researcher at Sweden-based TrueSec.

The vulnerability - dubbed 'Rootpipe' - allows privilege escalation from the regular administrator level to root, which provides unrestricted access to the system.

While OS X user accounts can be given standard (reduced) privileges, the default configuration is one user account with administrator privileges.

Some security experts recommend Mac users set up a second account with standard privileges for everyday use, reserving the admin account for situations when it is needed. But that advice is rarely followed on privately-owned Macs.

Kvarnhammar suggests that measure does provide protection against Rootpipe.

TrueSec followed the principles of responsible disclosure, and notified Apple of Kvarnhammar's discovery.

The two companies agreed that details of the vulnerability will not be released until January.

"This might sound like a long wait, but hey, time flies," said Kvarnhammar in a comment on a demo of the vulnerability that TrueSec posted on YouTube.

He also pointed out that while the demo was based on a Terminal script, Rootpipe could be combined with other vulnerabilities to allow remote exploitation.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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