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called attention to security issues affecting Google's Android operating system, Apple has updated its OS X operating system to make it more secure.
Apple's OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.3 Update, released on Thursday through the company's Software Update mechanism and as a download from Apple's website, includes a variety of changes to improve stability and compatibility as well as security.
The update adds the ability to redeem iTunes gift cards in the Mac App Store with the camera built into today's Macs, as well as Boot Camp support for Windows 8 and 3TB drives. It improves the compatibility of the Notes app with IMAP servers, the Mail app with Microsoft Exchange and the Contacts app with printing. And it resolves a variety of bugs affecting different Apple applications including Safari, as documented in the update's release notes.
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But the security fixes are the most necessary changes. The update addresses 21 vulnerabilities, 11 of which could be exploited to allow remote code execution.
Last month, Apple released an update that patched 30 Java flaws in the version of Java 6 that the company maintains, shortly after the company reportedly acknowledged that a zero-day Java flaw had led to the compromise of Mac OS X computers at Apple and other companies.
Java doesn't retain its starring role in Thursday's update, but it does play a part. In a blog post, Sophos security researcher Paul Ducklin characterized CVE-2013-0967 as the most interesting bug fix. Apple warns that the flaw (in OS X's Core Types component) could allow a malicious website to launch a Java Web Start application even if the Java plug-in has been disabled.
"It'll be something of a surprise for anyone who was relying on Apple's newfound strictness against Java to find that turning Java off in your browser didn't necessarily have the desired effect," Ducklin observed.
Apple has also fixed an error in the way VoiceOver interacted with the Login Window. The flaw allowed a person with keyboard access to launch the System Preferences control panel and alter system configuration details prior to login.
F-Secure security researcher Sean Sullivan noted in a blog post that Apple patched security issues related to some of the ostensibly "safe" file types that are opened by default when downloaded by the company's Safari browser. He recommends unchecking the checkbox that confirms this default setting.
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