Apple says no Wi-Fi flaw: Apple's public relations director Lynn Fox says that the Wi-Fi exploit demonstrated two weeks ago in a video shown at the Black Hat 2006 conference does not represent a flaw in Apple's software or device firmware. Apple told Macworld that the demonstrated exploit uses a third-party wireless driver for a Wi-Fi USB adapter. Neither the driver nor the chips are the same as those used by Apple in Mac OS X on a MacBook.
Further, Fox told Macworld that Apple has not received code or a demonstration that shows a flaw in shipping hardware and software. The researchers have changed the message on the page at SecureWorks, the consulting site at which they provide services, to note that Apple code wasn't involved in their demonstration.
The two researchers who presented the hack say that a flaw in the way in which wireless drivers from several manufacturers hand off data to the operating system can allow exploits in which a machine can be compromised to execute arbitrary code, such as a "bot," a remotely triggered piece of software used by spammers or attackers.
This was apparently true for Intel Centrino adapters, as that firm released update drivers in July that prevent this form of exploit. The researchers say they had nothing to do with Intel's update, but their exploit has similar attributes, and that helps make their case more credible.
I don't see how Apple can say this isn't their problem. Unless they think that every Apple user uses all Apple equipment.
At Defcon they showed this as well; and they made it clear that they were using 3rd party equipment; however, they did hint that they could have done this with Apple's stuff.
[Editor's note: Tricky point here. I want to agree with you that Apple should have responsibility for an operating system not being able to be compromised by a faulty driver. But the Wi-Fi stuff is a very particular subcase. Apple ships Wi-Fi as a built-in feature with most of its computers now, and has done so for its laptops for over two years. It's unlikely that someone would use a third-party card or option with a newer Mac for Wi-Fi.
Further, Apple pursues a kind of openness that Microsoft does not in terms of drivers. Anyone can write and distribute hardware drivers for Mac OS X. Microsoft puts up big warnings for drivers that haven't gone through their testing and certification process, although there are apparently holes discovered in wireless drivers that are certified.
So you're in effect asking Apple to be responsible for any behavior on the part of third-party developers or to restrict drivers insertion through some paid labeling program.
Further, the researchers are no longer claiming that they have any Apple exploit. They said at one point that they'd been in touch with Apple; Apple denies that they received anything useful and the researchers haven't contradicted this.--gf]
Another point that supports Apple's assertion is that according to the "Sex, Drugs & Unix" blog entry that Glenn linked to a while back, an unassociated station could only perpetrate this attack if the victim has drivers that were specially crafted. If that's the case, then this really isn't a significant flaw at all beyond a traditional peer-to-peer attack over a Wi-Fi network.