– Apple iTunes flaw ‘allowed government spying for 3 years’ (Telegraph, Nov. 24, 2011):
An unpatched security flaw in Apple’s iTunes software allowed intelligence agencies and police to hack into users’ computers for more than three years, it’s claimed.
A British company called Gamma International marketed hacking software to governments that exploited the vulnerability via a bogus update to iTunes, Apple’s media player, which is installed on more than 250 million machines worldwide.
The hacking software, FinFisher, is used to spy on intelligence targets’ computers. It is known to be used by British agencies and earlier this year records were discovered in abandoned offices of that showed it had been offered to Egypt’s feared secret police.
Apple was informed about the relevant flaw in iTunes in 2008, according to Brian Krebs, a security writer, but did not patch the software until earlier this month, a delay of more than three years.
“A prominent security researcher warned Apple about this dangerous vulnerability in mid-2008, yet the company waited more than 1,200 days to fix the flaw,” he said in a blog post.
“The disclosure raises questions about whether and when Apple knew about the Trojan offering, and its timing in choosing to sew up the security hole in this ubiquitous software title.”
On average Apple takes just 91 days to fix security flaws after they are disclosed, Mr Krebs wrote.
Francisco Amato, the Argentinian security researcher who warned Apple about the problem suggested that “maybe they forgot about it, or it was just on the bottom of their to-do list”.
In response to reports that FinFisher targeted iTunes, Apple has said that it works “to find and fix any issues that could compromise systems”.
“The security and privacy of our users is extremely important,” a spokeswoman said.
This month’s iTunes update 10.5.1 explained that “a man-in-the-middle attacker may offer software that appears to originate from Apple”, adding that the “issue has been mitigated”.
Gamma International has not commented on the matter. Registered in Winchester, the firm is one of several companies that sell computer hacking services to governments. They offer “zero day” security flaws, which have not been publicly disclosed, so attempts to exploit them are unlikely to be detected by anti-virus programs.