According to a SecureList posting dated April 10th, researchers Anton Ivanov, Andrey Khudyakov, Maxim Zhuravlev and Andrey Rubin discovered a vulnerability in the Darwin kernel back in December 2014. Why is this of interest? Well, the Darwin kernel is an open source part of both the Apple operating systems. The vulnerability could allow remote attackers to launch a DDoS on a device running OS X 10.10 or iOS 8. More worryingly, it could allow the attackers to send just a single, solitary incorrect network packet in order to crash the target system and impact upon any corporate network it may be connected to. Sounds pretty serious right? Apple obviously thought so, seeing as it took the company which is so profitable that it ranks in the top three companies on the planet more than three months to fix it. The updated OS X 10.10.3 and iOS 8.3 software releases patched the holes, but even so, three months plus!!!

This is actually something of a big deal if you ask me, and not untypical of Apple which has stood accused of taking far too long to fix vulnerabilities in the past. Yes, I appreciate that it's better to get things right than rush out fixes that break something else or don't do the job properly. However, and it's one mega however if you ask me, while a small to medium sized organisation might be forgiven for taking a while to patch code with limited resources to throw at the problem, Apple is not a small or medium sized organisation. Apple is fecking huge, one of the biggest mega-corps on the planet with money gushing out of the wazoo. If Apple wanted to fix something quickly, then Apple could fix something quickly, without cutting corners.

The Kaspersky Lab researchers which analyzed the vulnerability reckon it affected devices with 64-bit processors and iOS 8 including iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2, and iPad mini 3 as well as the OS X 10.10 hardware of course. That's a pretty broad sweep and, I repeat, a pretty big deal. A Kaspersky spokesperson explains that the vulnerability is exploited while processing an IP packet of specific size and with invalid IP options. After processing the invalid network packet, the system will crash. OK,. there are some caveats here such as the system only crashing if the IP packet meets the following conditions: size of the IP header should be 60 bytes, size of the IP payload should be less than or equal to 65 bytes, IP options should be incorrect (invalid option size, class, etc.). You may think that makes it less than a pretty big deal, after all surely that's a lot of specifics to match? Well, not really. If researchers could uncover "several combinations of incorrect IP options that are able to pass through the Internet routers" then cybercriminals and hacktivists are just as capable of doing so.

I'm not an anti-Apple ranter, so please don't lay that one on me, but I do think that a three month (nearer four in actual fact) time scale for patching such vulnerabilities is simply ludicrous. If Apple really take security as seriously as it likes to say it does, then it needs to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. And this wasn't walking, this was crawling through treacle while wearing flippers...

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About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to Forbes.com, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

Good question. I've been looking for some good comparative research on OS patching/security. Additionally, a solid resource for managing patching of small networks with all of the different OSs. (WIN7/8, MINT, iOS, and OSX).
http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/decrypt-os-security-showdown/