Time to Patch Your Flash

If it seems like you just updated your Flash Player software to plug a security hole that attackers were using to break into computers, you’re probably not imagining things: Three weeks ago, Adobe rushed out a new version to sew up a critical new security flaw. Today, Adobe issued a critical Flash update to eliminate another dangerous security hole that criminals are actively exploiting.

This new update addresses a vulnerability first detailed here at KrebsOnSecurity.com on Tuesday, and Adobe deserves credit for responding quickly with a patch. But there are few things that are simple about updating Flash, which ships in a dizzying array of version numbers and for many users must be deployed at least twice to cover all browsers. In addition, users may have to uninstall the existing version before updating to guarantee a trouble-free install. Also, Adobe Air will need to be updated if that software also is already installed. Finally, fixing this same vulnerability in Adobe Reader and Acrobat will require installing another patch, which won’t be out for at least another 10 days.

The new version fixes a flaw that exists in Flash v. (Adobe Flash Player and earlier for Chrome users) for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Solaris, and Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Android.

Adobe recommends that users of Flash Player and earlier versions (Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Chrome users) for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Solaris update to Adobe Flash Player (Adobe Flash Player for Chrome users). Adobe recommends users of Adobe AIR 2.6.19120 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux update to Adobe AIR 2.6.19140. Adobe expects to make available an update for Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Android no later than the week of April 25, 2011.

Not sure which version of Flash you have? Visit this version checker link to find out. Remember that if you use Internet Explorer in addition to other browsers, you will need to apply this update twice: Once to install the Flash Active X plugin for IE, and again to update other browsers, such as Firefox and Opera. Updates are available by browsing with the appropriate browser to the Flash Player Download Center. Bear in mind that updating via the Download Center involves installing Adobe’s Download Manager, which may try to foist additional software. If you’d prefer to update manually, the direct installers for Windows should be available at this link.

If you run into problems installing this update, you’ll want to uninstall previous versions of Flash Player and then try again.

For those who are manually updating Flash without the download manager, the link to the Adobe Air updater (version 2.6) is here.

Keeping up with Flash and other security updates for plug-ins is one area where Google Chrome really shines. Google automatically updates Chrome with the newest version of Flash, and it typically does this at least one or two days before Adobe officially releases Flash updates (it looks like Google updated Chrome to fix this flaw on Thursday). According to Google’s Eric Davis, Chrome also sandboxes Flash for Chrome browsers running on Windows Vista and Windows 7. In addition, Chrome updates other out-of-date extensions automatically, and automatically updates its built-in PDF viewer, which also is sandboxed.

Speaking of PDF viewers, Adobe said in its advisory issued Tuesday that the same flaw that bedevils Flash also exists in the Authplay.dll component that ships with Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.0.2) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh operating systems. The company says it plans to make an update available for Adobe Acrobat X (10.0.2) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh, Adobe Reader X (10.0.1) for Macintosh, and Adobe Reader 9.4.3 and earlier 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh no later than the week of April 25, 2011. As it said in the case of the previous Flash flaw three weeks ago, “Because Adobe Reader X Protected Mode would prevent an exploit of this kind from executing, we are currently planning to address this issue in Adobe Reader X for Windows with the next quarterly security update for Adobe Reader, currently scheduled for June 14, 2011.”

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