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Security Upgrades Apple

Apple Pushes Unwanted Software To PCs, Again 267

Posted by kdawson
from the just-updates-please dept.
itwbennett writes "Blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wags his finger at Apple for indiscriminately pushing the iPhone Configuration Utility 2.1 update out to Windows users, since it is a tool for business system administrators to set up and administer corporate iPhones — the blogger himself (and practically every other iPhone user) not being of the corporate iPhone user persuasion. But more than just unnecessary, the update actually puts him and millions of other iPhone owners/Windows PC users at increased risk by installing 'not just a configuration program, but the Apache Web server as well,' says Vaughan-Nichols. 'A Web server like the one Apple [is] adding to your PC... [is] a gateway just asking to be hammered on by an attacker. Managed properly Apache is as safe a Web server as you'll ever find, but ordinary PC users shouldn't try to manage it, and even an expert can't do anything with it if they don't know it's there.'" Reader CWMike notes that Apple pulled the iPhone Configuration Utility from the update list after a few hours.
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Apple Pushes Unwanted Software To PCs, Again

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  • Not really... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:18PM (#29574429)

    the update actually puts him and millions of other iPhone owners/Windows PC users at increased risk by installing

    Millions? Lets see here, the update was only recommended for a few hours and was quickly pulled. How many people do you think update constantly? If Windows updates are any indication (and most just install in the background with almost no user interaction) chances are very few. We aren't talking about "millions" but a few thousand in the worst case.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by defireman (1365467)
      There we go again...

      So that's why I get this "iPhone configuration utility" on my PC when I don't even have an iPhone.

      Obviously Apple has learned that installing software without user consent will only earn a slap on the wrist from the users at the very best.
      • by gid (5195)

        I'm pretty sure I was requested to install the "iphone configuration utility" not once, but twice. Enough for me to disable the apple software update task. What's bad? I don't have a iphone, itouch or any other apple hardware device, I don't even have itunes installed, just quicktime.

      • Once upon a time I tried iTunes, hated it and uninstalled it. Then the Apple Updater tried to install it every time an update for Safari was available (I keep Safari up to date because I use it to test web sites I develop) and I diligently unchecked it every time and told it to ignore the update... that was until iTunes 9 which I accidentally forgot to uncheck and ended up installing. I went "what the heck, I'll give it another go" but went to WMP and made it the default player for MP3s, WAVs, etc. ... Then

    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:24PM (#29574497)
      I'm sorry, but this is NOT even close to true. It has been offered for at least a week, and came up again on my machine last night. I've had it "offered" several times now on both machines. I don't know who first said it was only a few hours but that is just dead wrong.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dreamt (14798)

        Thank you. And in addition, it was listed in a check-box list of items. True, it was enabled by default, but the user still had to hit the button to install it.

        • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:08PM (#29575481) Journal

          Thank you. And in addition, it was listed in a check-box list of items. True, it was enabled by default, but the user still had to hit the button to install it.

          About 95% of all adware/malware crap, like those browser toolbars, uses precisely this technique to get installed. It has long stopped being considered adequate. The default for any "extra software" should always be off (Google, I'm looking at you, too).

      • I have been offered it at least twice a couple of weeks apart, including this weekend.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stuboogie (900470)
        I have also seen this offered multiple times on more than one windows box at work. We use Filemaker which installs Bonjour as a component. I enabled the Apple software update to keep Bonjour updated not to install Safari, Quicktime, iTunes or the iPhone Configuration BS.

        I declined the install on the PCs I noticed them on, but I'm not sure about how many other users at work just clicked update without knowing any better. The Apple update should only offer updates relevant to the programs already installed
      • Re:Not really... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by religious freak (1005821) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:32AM (#29576443)
        Same here. I know enough not to select it (I don't even have an iPhone), but the average user doesn't. This is par for the course for Apple.

        And NO I don't want Safari for the 10 Billionth time, Apple. Dunno why people prefer them over MS so much - on the scale of evil, I'd rate them roughly equal and on the scale of software features and implementation, I think MS is much better, hands down. IMHO, it's all marketing, which is supposedly something we geeks can't stand.
    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:25PM (#29574509)

      the update actually puts him and millions of other iPhone owners/Windows PC users at increased risk by installing

      Millions? Lets see here, the update was only recommended for a few hours and was quickly pulled. How many people do you think update constantly? If Windows updates are any indication (and most just install in the background with almost no user interaction) chances are very few. We aren't talking about "millions" but a few thousand in the worst case.

      Well iTunes has been installing the Apple Updater Thingy by default for a long time, so the question is how often that checks for updates. And according to Ars Technica (http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/09/apple-pushes-unwanted-enterprise-tool-to-windows-users.ars) the update was actually pushed "earlier this month" and only came to the attention of the online media today. It sounds like it was pulled a few hours after it hit half the computer-related news sites, not a few hours after it was pushed out to users.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Do you seriously not understand the difference between having something show up on a list of updates that are available and actually having it download and install behind your back?
        • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Informative)

          by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:36PM (#29574603) Homepage Journal

          My sister in law runs itunes on her windows laptop. When she bought it I installed firefox for her to use then she called me to report some strange behavior. She had somehow started running Safari. Firefox had disappeared. So either it happened automatically or she was tricked into installing it.

          • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Techman83 (949264) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:39PM (#29575219)
            It would have been an "Opt-Out" option, which is nearly as bad as the common theme for windows apps and damn toolbars or other "partner" software. If a friend desperately needs/wants iTunes and I know for a fact they will install it against my advice anyway, I use this [msfn.org] method. iTunes, without full quicktime, no updater, no bonjour, updater etc. I stipulate that I won't fix their machine if they choose to update it themselves. It works, keeps them happy and saves me the effort of diagnosing a slow computer.

            Why an F'ing music syncing application needs something like 8 persistently running services is absolutely beyond me.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Why an F'ing music syncing application needs something like 8 persistently running services is absolutely beyond me.

              Why I need "an F'ing music syncing application" to transfer audio files onto a flash device via USB, when every other similar device allows me to just drag some files onto the drive in explorer, is absolutely beyond me.

        • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Plasmic (26063) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:09PM (#29574937)

          Do you seriously not understand the difference between having something show up on a list of updates that are available and actually having it download and install behind your back?

          How much research do you think people do before checking a box in an iTunes dialog? The onus is on Apple to not offer stupid things that would coincidentally inflate the installed base of an enterprise utility.

          Do you seriously not understand the use case of a typical end-user, e.g. teenager, that thinks they want the 'iPhone Configuration Utility' since it's offered by Apple iTunes and they ... have an iPhone? "Hey, I might want to configure my iPhone. And I've always downloaded every other iTunes update with iPhone in the title." (Anyone that can read the description and decipher that it's for enterprise device management doesn't fit the definition of "typical end-user".)

          The results speak for themselves: millions of users installed this software because it looked like a standard iPhone update.

          • I figured I was offered it because my son sometimes syncs his iPod Touch using my computer.
          • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

            Indeed.. I installed it on my Win partition because I thought it was something that OSX had built in.

            If it installed apache behind my back I'm somewhat pissed.

        • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by timothyf (615594) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:22PM (#29575047) Homepage

          Users don't read dialog boxes. It could've had red flashing lights around it, and it wouldn't have mattered. It would still have remained checked by default and users would click the "OK" button to make the thing go away.

          Also, think about the actual action they'd need to perform to not install the software. Sure, it's easy to say "just uncheck it," but think about what that means. Unchecking the dialog box means that you have to know what the iPhone Configuration Utility is and why you absolutely don't need it. Unchecking it means risking that something will go wrong, because you didn't install something that your computer told you you needed.

          *That* is why it's a problem.

          • Users don't read dialog boxes. It could've had red flashing lights around it, and it wouldn't have mattered.

            Yeah I get those at the bottom of websites all the time, usually because I'm the Xth visitor etc. For some reason, the prize is always a bunch of forms to fill out promising more prizes. (this is a joke, by the way)

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          Well, when users are told 'your iPod won't work anymore unless you click ok', the average user will just click ok. Sure, it's no problem for you and I, but less than a month after I went off to college (currently a sophomore) my parents' computer suddenly had safari as the default browser (which alone was a mess - the computer's 8 years old now, the latest safari absolutely _crawls_ on it. But then again, so does Firefox. And IE. Only browser with decent performance is Chrome). Also had quicktime as the def

          • by Sparr0 (451780)

            If you don't like Chrome, try Opera. It is almost as fast, still like lightning compared to FF and IE. If you do like Chrome, keep using Chrome :)

            • by Urza9814 (883915)

              Yea, I love Chrome :) Well, I love it for Windows users. I'm on Linux myself, so I'm quite annoyed that there's no official build yet. As soon as there is, or whenever I get the time to try out the new dev build and it actually works well, I'm switching. Last time I tried it though it took up a few hundred megs of hard drive space and I don't think it even supported tabs yet. Also took hours to get the damn thing built.

    • by icebike (68054)

      That utility was there for far more than a few hours.
      It was there last night, over 5 days after the initial upgrade to itunes was announced.

    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:51PM (#29574771) Journal
      I was at my sister's house this weekend and Saturday at around 11 am CST I saw it pop up on her old Dell machine.

      The big problem I had with it was what it was called which was "iPhone Configuration Utility" and the kicker is she owns an iPhone. Which confused me because she had nothing installed on there for her iPhone, only her iPod. So there I was debating on whether or not to install this for her because it sounded applicable and useful to her. I didn't install it but if I did, I would pissed to know that her five year old piece of crap Windows machine is now running an Apache server. Additionally, I had to uncheck Safari. Then I have to go into msconfig and uncheck the damned Quicktime (try installing iTunes without that!) run on startup shit that is always reset when you install iTunes. Because everyone wants that running non stop in the background especially when you have only 512 MB of SDRAM. So I did the little dance and I've bitched about it before but no one seems to care. It's bloatware and it sucks. Her computer can't even run iTunes videos, she just uses it for music but no one seems to care about that. Apple's the king of usability, design and interface chic!

      Now we get this story where someone points it out. Do we see people roll in and viciously attack Apple like we all would attack Microsoft if IE8 had Bing's Javascript Attackable Toolbar checked by default on installation? Or Microsoft's indexing service that eats up all your cycles whenever it feels like it? No, no, what we get is "there were maybe a thousand people, relax" or "it's not pushing, you could have unchecked it" or "the Windows people don't know how to update anyway."

      Unbelievable. How many free passes does Apple get before you start to question their infallibility? Hey, everyone makes mistakes but you guys are dreaming up probables and likely scenarios that somehow excuse Apple. Why?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Miszou72 (927439)

        Quicktime is the exact reason why I run iTunes in its own Virtual Machine.

        • Re:Not really... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Kalriath (849904) * on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:25PM (#29575061)

          I love how it changes the registry to force the browser to load QuickTime for every PNG file on a page. Fuck does that take forever to fix! (Or load a page, for that matter).

      • by weston (16146) <westonsd@@@canncentral...org> on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:52PM (#29575339) Homepage

        How many free passes does Apple get before you start to question their infallibility?

        Probably about as many as there are strawman constructions of people's conceptions of Apple as a company.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by indiechild (541156)

          Exactly. Apple has never gotten a free pass on Slashdot, but that doesn't stop people from claiming that (and at the same time getting modded +5 without fail).

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Uberbah (647458)

            My favorite was the story of how "iCon" was banned from Apple stores. The haters were doing their usual "now if this were Microsoft, you'd all be up in arms" even as many of the +5 posts called Jobs a consummate asshole.

      • How many free passes does Apple get before you start to question their infallibility?

        Has Apple ever received a free pass around here? I know they've had some nice press, but there are plenty of people ready and willing to jump into the fray.

        Infallibility... Ha, anyone who remembers the 90s will argue against that, whether they like Apple products or not.

    • The update has been pushing this software for days -- my twelve-year old called me to the family PC last week to ask about the update install. If I hadn't trained her well, she would have assumed it was okay since she knows we have Apple's Quicktime installed (and the update cleverly bundles Quicktime with iTunes, which I don't want on any computer, especially one with a nearly-full HD).

      I hadn't looked into the iPhone configuration part though, like the blogger mentioned, I was irked since there's never
      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        This whole experience goes to show that corporations can all fall into traps of not thinking or knowing what one part's doing and not really caring until someone makes enough noise to get their attention.

        The company that tries to ninja software onto our computers all the time did not make a mistake when they did it yet again.

        The 'mistake' was only getting 1 million people to install it.

  • by PaKL (1236442)
    Personally I hope they spend more time on the main iTunes program itself. Mine always freezes if I allow the program to sync as soon as the iPhone is connected! Disabling that function is the only way I have found allows me to connect the iPhone without having iTunes stall.
    Is this the second update to version 9 of iTunes already? It seems just last week the 9.01 (?) was released!
  • by diamondsw (685967) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:21PM (#29574471)

    No one else reporting on this "issue" (it was a mistake folks - chill out) has mentioned installing Apache, which would definitely be a huge issue.

    Has anyone here independently seen this supposed Apache installation?

  • pushes? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:22PM (#29574473)
    I'm not so sure if asking me if I'd like to update/install something is the same as having it "pushed" to me. I had the Apple Software Update thing pop up on me the other day, I unchecked the items I didn't want (the iPhone Config Util being one of them), and I went ahead and updated the software that I did want. So how exactly are they "forcing" this one me?
    • Re:pushes? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by recoiledsnake (879048) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:40PM (#29574661)

      Not everyone is a slashdotter. In fact, you'd be less vulnerable even if you install it just because you're a techie and post on a site that bills itself as 'News for Nerds'. So, the name (iPhone Config Util) itself sounds like something an iPhone user would want.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thepainguy (1436453)
      They should give us the option of not being offered it. I have tried several times to deselect it from the offer list, but that's not an option. Instead, you have to notice it in the update list. I'm not worried about what I am going to do, but about what my wife and kids are going to do. They aren't as tech savvy as me.
    • I had the Apple Software Update thing pop up on me the other day, I unchecked the items I didn't want (the iPhone Config Util being one of them), and I went ahead and updated the software that I did want. So how exactly are they "forcing" this one me?

      Wait until the Apple Software Update pops up again and you discover that all the items that have even a minor version number change are back — even though you selected "ignore this software" — and not only back, but checked by default again, because, even though you refused to install an enormous new program when it was on version 4.3.2, surely you'll want to install it now that it's 4.3.2.1.

      I have several business clients that feel a need for QuickTime. A couple of them even paid for QuickTime

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eulernet (1132389)

      So how exactly are they "forcing" this one me?

      In that case, explain me why when I update Safari with the latest version on Windows, and I uncheck the Bonjour checkbox, it installs Bonjour anyway ?

  • Likely Accidental (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iMouse (963104)

    Apple only pushes the iPhone Configuration Utility updates to those who have the utility installed already. This is the case with my home and my work computers where only my work computer contained a previous installation of the iPhone Configuration Utility.

    It appears to be more of a screw-up by Apple rather than the intent of pushing unwanted software.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Incorrect. Apple Updater has been popping up every time my wife opens iTunes (and sometimes even when she doesn't) asking her to install Bonjour, Safari, MobileMe, QuickTime and the iPhone Configuration Utility. The config utility is a new addition from a few weeks ago. We certainly don't have that tool already and it is most certainly part of Apple's continued ploy to get her to just click Okay and "accidentally" install all of that crap on her PC. There's no way to tell the updater to only offer relevant

      • by Plasmic (26063) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:52PM (#29574773)

        Incorrect. Apple Updater has been popping up every time my wife opens iTunes (and sometimes even when she doesn't) asking her to install Bonjour, Safari, MobileMe, QuickTime and the iPhone Configuration Utility.

        Can't argue with that!

        And aren't we aware of Apple's iPhone in the enterprise push with IT buyers? Apple would love to say, "With over 10 million installs, the iPhone Configuration Utility is widely adopted by corporate IT departments". Nevermind that 99% of those are due to the "accidental" installation.

        You also have to ask yourself, have they ever done anything to indicate their shyness with regard to software installation? QuickTime takes over every single audio/video playback association, both in Explorer and with browser-embedded media, and even gets its own system tray and desktop icons. Same goes for iTunes with its "uncheck if you don't want it" policy for the apps mentioned above.

        I just don't see why we'd give Apple the benefit of the doubt on this one.

      • Yeah the bit about Apache is bad but the rest is completely trustworthy, sure, sure, what color is the sky where you are? Well I had the tool installed but I uninstalled it because we decided to use a different machine to administer the phones. When I run the updater utility it doesn't try to re-install it. I can't find even the remnants of it on my system. But don't let that get in your way. 100% dead on it is then!
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by iMouse (963104)

        Maybe you just failed to notice that Bonjour, QuickTime, and MobileMe are all tied to iTunes for functionality.

        MobileMe is tied in to iTunes for iPhones, Bonjour is for iTunes Sharing, and QuickTime is required for iTunes functionality.

        Safari has been known (recently) to prompt for optional installation, but is not checked for installation by default. Your wife would have to check the box and click the install button to "accidentally" install Safari. Also, she is prompted to install these items because th

    • This is wrong. I don't have the app installed and they still pushed it to me.
  • by danaris (525051) <danarisNO@SPAMmac.com> on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:35PM (#29574583) Homepage

    The previous ones were probably Apple deliberately (and stupidly) trying to push its software to Windows machines that didn't have it already.

    Given that almost no one needs the iPhone Configuration Utility among regular consumer-type users, I can see no benefit to Apple in deliberately pushing it out, and thus conclude that it was just a mistake.

    Dan Aris

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rockoon (1252108)

      I can see no benefit to Apple in deliberately pushing it out

      You are all set to replace your cell phone with one of these new hip phones, like the Blackberry, the Pre, or the iPhone.

      You know that you already have iPhone interop support because, after all, Apple Maljector keeps telling you that you have access to an "iPhone Configuration Utility" - Surely that means the iPhone works great with your computer! - Hell, you may even have installed it already!

      Now, you were saying something about no benefit?

  • by NivenHuH (579871) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:43PM (#29574701) Homepage
    Software updates are pulled from the client, not pushed to the client. There's an important difference between the two and the phrases shouldn't be used interchangeably. For software pushes, see: Amazon Kindle + 1984 book deletion
  • by spywhere (824072) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:07PM (#29574911)
    When I build a Windows box, I turn off QuickTime's default automatic updates and delete the shortcut from the Start menu.
    (I also install Flash and Java in front of the customer, so I can show them the "already checked box" scam).
  • by Derwood5555 (828126) <derwood@@@naebunny...net> on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:36PM (#29575185)
    Quicktime Alternative, FTW.. No iTunes, no iPhone, no iToilet...
  • First Jobs steals a liver and now he's trying to take over my computer. I'm pissed.
  • by SEE (7681) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:09PM (#29575959) Homepage

    It looks like the only way to get Apple to start behaving responsibly would be for Microsoft to put Apple Software Update on the list of targets for the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, until Apple eliminates the default checkboxing of "updates" to software the user hasn't installed.

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