A new critical vulnerability titled “Rootpipe” affecting the Mac OS X operating system has been discovered courtesy of Swedish security researcher and consultant Emil Kvarnhammar (@emilkvarnhammar).
The vulnerability allows the malicious user the ability to escalate administrative privileges on a compromised system as well as allows them to obtain the highest level of access known as “root’ access. In doing so, the malicious user could bypass the built-in safeguards that are supposed to stop individuals who try to root the operating system through a temporary backdoor.
Speaking at a Developer Conference in Sweden, Kvarnhammar demonstrated the privilege escalation vulnerability on OS X 10.8.5 through the newest 10.10 Yosemite.
Once exploited, hackers could install malicious software or even make other changes to the system without any need of a password. From there they could also steal sensitive information such as passwords or bank account information, or delete all of the data from the computer.
Kvarnhammar reached out to Apple about the issue but initially didn’t get any response, Apple requested additional details in which he did provide. Since then Apple has requested he not to disclose the exploit until they are able to produce a patch in January 2015.
Apple OS X users affected by the “Rootpipe” vulnerability are advised to follow the below steps in order to protect themselves:
• Avoid running the system on a daily basis with an admin account. An attacker that will gain control on this account will obtain anyway limited privileges.
Kvarnhammar also recommended using FileVault, Apple’s hard drive encryption for Mac users, noting “This is a great way of protecting your data, especially if your computer gets stolen.”
However, the best way to protect yourself from such security vulnerabilities is to ensure that the operating system running on your system is always up-to-date, and always be careful to the links and documents others send to you.