March 25, 2005 10:00 AM PST

Week in review: Hacking away at Apple

Apple Computer has traditionally been regarded as partially immune to the exploits of hackers and virus writers, thanks to its low market share--but those days may be over.

This week, Apple closed a security hole that had allowed an underground program to tap into its iTunes Music Store and purchase songs stripped of antipiracy protections. The PyMusique software, created by a trio of independent programmers, emerged last week. One of its creators was Jon Johansen, the Norwegian programmer responsible for releasing DVD-copying software in 1999.

After Apple closed the hole on Monday, the group posted new code that it said will reopen the backdoor for Linux users.

The programmers' work has been one of the most persistent projects targeting Apple, whose iPod and iTunes store have drawn consistent attacks and experiments by people eager to extend the capability of the products or simply disarm copy protection.

Meanwhile, Apple's Mac OS X operating system may become a target for hackers and authors of malicious software, a security software company warns. In a new report, Symantec said that in the past year, security researchers had discovered at least 37 serious vulnerabilities in Mac OS X. The company also said that as Apple increases its market share with new low-cost products such as the Mac Mini, its user base is likely to come under increasing attack.

The Symantec report also said there's been evidence of growth in vulnerability research on the OS X platform.

That report came as Apple released nearly a dozen fixes for flaws in the Mac OS, including a script for preventing phishers from fooling users of its Safari browser. The loophole could allow an attacker to use certain characters from different languages to create legitimate-looking Web addresses that actually send victims to malicious Web sites.

The newly released patches take care of flaws in the Apple Filing Protocol server and the Samba filing-sharing server, as well as multiple issues with the Cyrus authentication software, the Cyrus mail software, Mailman and SquirrelMail.

The big game
Sony's new PlayStation Portable arrived in North America this week with a bang.

Hundreds of dedicated consumers camped Wednesday outside the Metreon in San Francisco--one of a handful of locations to stay open past midnight to begin selling PSPs the minute that Thursday's North American retail date arrived. And these PSP enthusiasts were convinced it was worth whatever discomfort they had to endure to snag one of the gadgets.

The PSP could be one of the first limited-scale victories for "convergence," the oft-touted notion of combining numerous media functions into a single device. While convergence in the home is still an idea looking for a market, the concept has a better chance with portable gadgets, where a multifunction approach can save valuable pocket space.

The PSP takes a new path in the quest for an all-in-one gadget. It's being sold primarily as a portable game machine, a market where it can capitalize on the huge PlayStation brand, yet it can also play movies and music, display digital photos and potentially perform a host of Internet tasks through

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