Apple’s Mac App Store Puts Users At Risk
Apple is publishing outdated software packages, subject to critical security vulnerabilities in some cases, through its App Store.
Security researcher Joshua Long discovered that users who download a copy of Opera via the App Store get a copy of the software released in March. Fantastico!
Opera fixed a critical security flaw in this software (11.01) weeks ago. But the latest 11.11 version of the browser application is not available throughout Apple’s App Store – surfers are instead offered a version of the software that’s two releases out of date.
The Opera example is not the only example of potential problems, though it is the most serious. Amazon’s Kindle app in the App Store dates from as far back as January, for example.
Apple’s approval is necessary before software is published via the Mac App Store. This approach has arguably helped prevent the problem of Trojans and other rogue apps that have become a increasing problem in other software marketplaces. However, it does introduce a delay that means Apple is falling short of its promise to “keep track of your apps and tell you when an update is available”.
Security savvy Mac users would be better to get updated software from a vendor’s own website.
UPDATE, 25 May 2011: Finally, a full week after Opera released version 11.11 on its site and publicly disclosed the security vulnerability it had patched, and after a lot of coverage in the tech press resulting from this article, Apple has finally released Opera 11.11 in the Mac App Store. As suggested by other security researchers and tech commentators, one would hope that Apple will begin to improve its app approval process to fast-track security updates, especially when the vulnerabilities have been publicly disclosed or exist in popular software.