Now that the security drama around the "gotofail" bug is behind Apple, headlines are trumpeting what could turn into another issue for the tech giant. Apple is no longer issuing updates for Mac OS X 10.6, also known as Snow Leopard.
Much like Microsoft is ending free support for Windows XP and urging customers to upgrade, Apple will no longer send out software fixes that keep users safe from cyber criminals and malware.
Apple released the Snow Leopard operating system in 2009. Like Windows XP, the OS X version remains popular with Mac users. According to Net Applications, 19 percent of Mac computers still run Snow Leopard.
You Can Upgrade Free
For those still running Snow Leopard, the company offers a free upgrade to OS X Mavericks, the latest version of its Mac operating system, on its Web site. Mavericks is the first operating system upgrade Apple has made available for free.
Snow Leopard has remained popular despite the free-upgrade offer. There are several possible reasons Mac users have held on, including early bugs and consumer unhappiness with changes in Mavericks; also, Snow Leopard was the last version of OS X able to run applications designed for the PowerPC processor, the CPU used by Apple before it switched to Intel processors in 2006.
Additionally, Snow Leopard was the last OS version able to run on Macs equipped with 32-bit Intel processors, making it impossible for owners of the older machines to upgrade beyond OS X 10.6.
Apple as a rule does not announce when it ends support for older OSes, but simply stops issuing security fixes for them. That is the case with Snow Leopard, as its latest fix issued Tuesday, which addresses more than 21 security vulnerabilities, was not available in a version for Snow Leopard.
Fixing the Failure
Apple's fix Tuesday addressed a critical SSL flaw for Mac computers to protect users' personal information from being stolen by hackers. The "gotofail" flaw could open a door for hackers to access a victim's communications, including FaceTime video chats, e-mail addresses and address book appointments, and even Find My Mac tracking information.
The security update, OS X version 10.9.2, fixes the flaw in OS X Mavericks as well as the older Mountain Lion.
"The bug was caused by a line of C code that says 'goto fail,' which was a self-descriptive irony too amusing to ignore," writes Sophos security analyst Paul Ducklin in a blog post. "So the bug quickly became known as the 'gotofail,' or even the 'double-goto-fail.' (The error was that the line appeared twice instead of once.)"