Security Experts:

Apple to Patch Thunderstrike, Vulnerabilities Disclosed by Google

The vulnerabilities disclosed last week by Google and the Thunderstrike flaw detailed in December by a researcher have been reportedly fixed by Apple in OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 beta.

Apple has not responded to SecurityWeek’s emails regarding the status of the three high-severity issues made public last week by Google’s Project Zero. However, iMore has learned from people who have access to OS X Yosemite 10.10.2, which will be made available to all users soon, that the update includes fixes for these vulnerabilities.

This isn’t surprising considering that the issues were reported by Ian Beer, the Google researcher who identified several vulnerabilities in Apple products over the past months.

The security holes were reported to Apple in October and they were made public after the 90-day disclosure deadline given by Google to software developers expired.

One of the flaws, a sandbox escape, appears to have already been fixed in OS X Yosemite. The other bugs are a code execution vulnerability and a memory corruption, both affecting the IOKit kernel.

Another issue reportedly addressed in OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 is Thunderstrike, a serious vulnerability (CVE-2014-4498) demonstrated by researcher Trammell Hudson at the 31C3 security conference in Germany in late December.

The expert showed that an attacker with physical access to an Apple device can use the Thunderbolt port to install a highly persistent bootkit on the EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) boot read-only memory (ROM) within minutes. The malware could spread from one computer to the other via Thunderbolt devices attached to the infected machine.

The proof-of-concept (PoC) malware developed by Hudson doesn’t have a malicious payload, but a weaponized version of the threat can give an attacker total control of the infected machine. Furthermore, the bootkit would be highly difficult to detect and remove.

Apple has already started shipping partial patches for Mac Mini and iMac with Retina display devices, Hudson noted at the conference. Yosemite 10.10.2 will address this issue on all Macs by preventing the boot ROM from being replaced and by blocking attempts to roll back the firmware to a previous version that allowed such attacks, iMore said in a separate report.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.