Apple's Safari web browser for both the Mac and Windows suffers from a serious vulnerability that can expose emails, passwords and other sensitive contents of a user's hard drive, a researcher has warned.
Those using Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard, are susceptible to the data-snooping bug even if they use Firefox or another alternate browser, according to open source software developer Brian Mastenbrook. Apple has yet to plug the gaping hole, so the only way users can currently protect themselves is to change RSS reader settings in Safari's preferences panel.
Windows users are also vulnerable, but only if they are using Safari. For the time being, it's probably a good idea for Windows users with Safari installed to leave it closed and use a different browser.
"The details of this vulnerability have not been made public to the best of my knowledge, but secrecy is no guarantee against a sufficiently motivated attacker," said Mastenbrook, who last year was credited by Apple with finding four vulnerabilities in the Mac operating system. His blog post outlining the bug is light on many details, but it does say the bug "could be exploited by a phishing site in a way that would not cause affected users to suspect their information had been stolen."
Leopard users can protect themselves by opening Safari and selecting Preferences from the Safari menu, choosing the RSS tab, clicking on the Default Reader pop-up window and selecting an application other than Safari.
Users of Tiger, aka Mac OS X 10.4, and earlier versions of Mac OS X are not vulnerable. ®