Tech observers were seriously taken aback when Apple took several days to address a security flaw in OS X 10.9 Mavericks after quickly fixing the same bug in iOS. The vulnerability comes from an improper implementation of SSL and TLS — the standard encryption systems used for secure Internet connections.
My colleague and security expert Fahmida Rashid said users should update immediately, noting that the bug allows attackers to "launch a man-in-the-middle attack and eavesdrop on all user activity." It does this by incorrectly validating the certificates which prove that, for example, the web page you're seeing really is coming from your bank. An attacker on the same Wi-Fi network could spoof the bank's site and see any information you send.
How to update
Luckily, Apple has patched the vulnerability — and added a few desirable user feature enhancements to boot. Don't hang around; you really need to get this one patched right now. Fortunately, it's a dead easy process, but we've provided this step-by-step guide in case you need it. So, here's how to get the update:
- Make sure that you're on a trusted network such as your home or work connection.
- Back up your Mac using Time Machine or another backup system. (But if you don't have access to these, it's more important to perform the upgrade, even without a backup. You could just save cricital files to external storage as a half measure).
- Make sure your Mac is plugged in if it's a laptop.
- Tap the Apple icon at the top left of your Mac's main menu bar, and choose "Software Update..."
- The Mac App Store will open, showing you available updates. You'll have to agree to an Apple user license agreement. If other updates are offered, run those as well as the OS X updates. (Another option is to download Apple's manual installer).
- Do not interrupt the update by unplugging or restarting the computer. It will show a progress bar for several minutes; on my MacBook Air it took just 12 minutes.
- You'll be asked to enter your Apple ID and password to verify iCloud and Keychain options.
- Enjoy your now-safe Mavericks-based Mac just as before.
For more on Mavericks, you can read our full review here.