Apple fixes 18 flaws in Tiger's Java

Apple Inc. has updated Java for Mac OS X 10.4, aka Tiger, to patch 18 different vulnerabilities, including some fixed as long ago as May by Java's maker, Sun Microsystems Inc.

Apple's newest operating system, dubbed Leopard, does not need to be patched because it includes the updated Java components.

According to the accompanying advisory, Tiger's Java, Java 1.4 and J2SE 5.0 contain flaws that in some cases can lead to what Apple calls "arbitrary code execution," which means that attackers may be able to insert their own malware during an exploit and/or gain complete control of the machine.

Apple, unlike rivals such as Microsoft Corp., does not rank or rate its security updates to give users an idea of the severity of the bugs.

Among the 18 separate vulnerabilities is one discovered by 3com Corp.'s TippingPoint in June 2006 and another reported to Sun in October 2006 by a member of Google Inc.'s security team.

TippingPoint's flaw was fixed in January 2007, and the Google-reported bug was patched by Sun in May 2007; in both instances, updates were made available at the time for the Java components used by Windows, Linux and Solaris. But because Apple crafts the Java runtime for Mac OS X, its users were left unprotected an additional 11 and 7 months, respectively.

No exploits, however, were reported leveraging either bug during that time.

The 80MB update, dubbed "Java for Mac OS X 10.4, Release 6," was not marked as a security update on Apple's download site, nor were the vulnerabilities or their patches mentioned in the description that appeared when users received notice by Mac OS X's Software Update tool.

The phrasing Apple used said only that Release 6 improves "reliability and compatibility" for Java.

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