There used to be this air of security about Apple. But, on Thursday, it announced that it was plugging no less than 25 flaws in the Mac OSX operating system (OS). The updates that have been issued are said to affect various parts of the OS, including third-party components. Of the various flaws, some are reported to be serious enough to let hackers take control of an unpatched Mac.
Some of these bugs were identified in January as a part of the ‘Month of Apple Bugs’. While several of the vulnerabilities repaired by Apple’s updates were previously known, it doesn’t appear that any attacks exploiting the flaws actually occurred.
To confirm that this is not just another minor update, hackers at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver were challenged to break into two MacBooks in a “PWN to Own” Hack-a-Mac contest. The prize was a MacBook and $10,000 (Rs4.2 lakh), according to show organizers. The prize went to the team of Shane Macaulay and Dino Dai Zovi, a software engineer and a security researcher respectively. They managed to hack into, and take control of, a MacBook by finding a security exploit that takes advantage of an open Safari browser window.
This is the fourth OSX update from Apple this year, in keeping with its one-a-month schedule. The largest release, till now, was in March when the company fixed 45 bugs. For those who are using OSX and would like to download the updates, there are two ways to get them. One is by logging on to www.apple.com and heading over to the Support section (http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/) and the other is through the Apple Updater on your computer. If you are a Mac user, this is not something to ignore.
Hold on! Before you go scurrying along rush to get a copy of Microsoft’s low-cost software, note that it’s meant for students and is a scaled-down version to help billions of people in developing countries use computer technology.
The company has announced a ‘Student Innovation Suite’ including Windows XP, Office and Learning Essentials 2.0 that will be sold to “qualifying governments” from later this year for only $3 (Rs126) a unit. “All human beings deserve a chance to achieve their full potential,” Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said while announcing the programme in Beijing. The discounted software offer is an expansion of Microsoft’s ‘Unlimited Potential’ programme that is aimed at accelerating the adoptionspread of computer technology in developing countries. The expansion of the ‘Unlimited Potential’ programme will focus on three areas—education, innovation, and jobs and economic opportunity, Gates said.
Microsoft also announced plans to extend its resource commitment to Microsoft Innovation Centres, which focus on planning, researching and developing over the next two years, and anticipates opening and supporting 200 centres in an additional 25 countries by 2009. The current network of 110 centres serves 100 communities in 60 nations by providing local software communities with a comprehensive set of programmes and services to expand workforce skills, create jobs, strengthen innovation and improve competitiveness.
In partnership with local governments, educational institutions and businesses, Microsoft’s resource investments provide software development assistance, training in business skills, employment training, employment programmes for students and market incubation for the local startup community.
Another initiative, the Imagine Cup, an annual technology competition, provides an outlet for students to explore technological and innovative interests outside the classroom. More than 65,000 students from 100 countries competed in last year’s event. Registration is still on for the 2007 competition. So far, more than 100,000 students have signed up.