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By | Dan Goodin 10th June 2008 00:18

Apple's carpet-bomb Safari flaw can wreak havoc on Windows

A tale of two security teams

A researcher has created a proof-of-concept site that graphically demonstrates the risk Windows users face when using Apple's Safari browser.

Microsoft's security team already warned that a "blended threat" was so serious that Windows users should curtail their use of Safari until a security patch is available. This blog post from researcher Liu Die Yu makes it clear the warning was by no means overstated.

Clicking on this link with Safari using default settings automatically downloads a booby-trapped file onto a Windows user's desktop with no prompting. The next time the user opens Internet Explorer, the force-fed file automatically causes the notepad.exe application to launch and open a non-existent file. Of course, miscreants could choose far more nefarious code.

When informed that its browser downloads files with no prompting, Apple said it may get around to changing this behavior at some point, but then again, maybe it wouldn't. In other words, this is no big deal from a security perspective, so let's all move on. This demo suggests otherwise.

It would appear that IE automatically carries out instructions buried in odd files dropped onto a user's desktop, so it's certainly to blame here. Microsoft said as much when it warned of the blended threat. We also wouldn't be surprised if the flaw is fixed tomorrow, when Microsoft releases its monthly installment of security patches.

Contrast Microsoft's response with that of Apple. The company that foisted Safari on the unwitting masses of Windows users can't be bothered to fix a flaw that clearly puts them at risk. Yeah, IE is at fault for running strange files stashed on a user's desktop, but it's interesting to note that Safari is the only major browser that automatically downloads the rogue payload. Gives a whole new meaning to Apple's "It just works" mantra. ®

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