An independent security researcher, Park Minchan, has disclosed a new vulnerability in Apple’s macOS Finder, which makes it possible for attackers to run arbitrary commands on Macs running any macOS version up to the latest release, Big Sur.

Park Minchan has reported this vulnerability to the SSD Secure Disclosure program.

A vulnerability in macOS Finder allows files whose extension is inetloc to execute arbitrary commands, these files can be embedded inside emails which if the user clicks on them will execute the commands embedded inside them without providing a prompt or warning to the user.

Vulnerability Analysis

A vulnerability in the way macOS processes inetloc files cause it to run commands embedded inside, the commands it runs can be local to the macOS allowing the execution of arbitrary commands by the user without any warning/prompts.

Originally, inetloc files are shortcuts to an Internet location, such as an RSS feed or a telnet location; and contain the server address and possibly a username and password for SSH and telnet connections; can be created by typing a URL in a text editor and dragging the text to the Desktop.

The case here inetloc is referring to a file:// “protocol” allows running locally (on the user’s computer) stored files.

If the inetloc file is attached to an email, clicking on the attachment will trigger the vulnerability without warning.

Newer versions of macOS (from Big Sur) have blocked the file:// prefix (in the com.apple.generic-internet-location) however, they did a case matching causing File:// or fIle:// to bypass the check.

While Apple silently fixed the issue without assigning a CVE identification number, as Minchan later discovered, Apple’s patch only partially addressed the flaw as it can still be exploited by changing the protocol used to execute the embedded commands from file:// to FiLe://.

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“Newer versions of macOS (from Big Sur) have blocked the file:// prefix (in the com.apple.generic-internet-location) however they did a case matching causing File:// or fIle:// to bypass the check,” the advisory adds.

“We have notified Apple that FiLe:// (just mangling the value) doesn’t appear to be blocked, but have not received any response from them since the report has been made. As far as we know, at the moment, the vulnerability has not been patched.”