Adobe today pushed another update to seal nearly three dozen security holes in its Flash Player software. Microsoft also released 14 patch bundles, including a large number of fixes for computers running its new Windows 10 operating system. Not to be left out of Patch Tuesday, Oracle‘s chief security officer lobbed something of a conversational hand grenade into the security research community, which responded in kind and prompted Oracle to back down.
Adobe’s latest patch for Flash (it has issued more than a dozen this year alone) fixes at least 34 separate security vulnerabilities in Flash and Adobe AIR. Mercifully, Adobe said this time around it is not aware of malicious hackers actively exploiting any of the flaws addressed in this release.
Adobe recommends users of Adobe Flash Player on Windows and Macintosh update to Adobe Flash Player 126.96.36.199. Adobe Flash Player installed with Google Chrome will be automatically updated to the latest Google Chrome version, which will include Adobe Flash Player 188.8.131.52 on Windows and Macintosh, and version 184.108.40.206 for Linux and Chrome OS.
However, I would recommend that if you use Flash, you should strongly consider removing it, or at least hobbling it until and unless you need it. Disabling Flash in Chrome is simple enough, and can be easily reversed: On a Windows, Mac, Linux or Chrome OS installation of Chrome, type “chrome:plugins” into the address bar, and on the Plug-ins page look for the “Flash” listing: To disable Flash, click the disable link (to re-enable it, click “enable”). Windows users can remove Flash from the Add/Remove Programs panel, or use Adobe’s uninstaller for Flash Player.
If you’re concerned about removing Flash altogether, consider a dual-browser approach. That is, unplugging Flash from the browser you use for everyday surfing, and leaving it plugged in to a second browser that you only use for sites that require Flash.
If you decide to proceed with Flash and update, the most recent versions of Flash should be available from the Flash home page, but beware potentially unwanted add-ons, like McAfee Security Scan. To avoid this, uncheck the pre-checked box before downloading, or grab your OS-specific Flash download from here. Windows users who browse the Web with anything other than Internet Explorer may need to apply this patch twice, once with IE and again using the alternative browser (Firefox, Opera, e.g.)
Microsoft may have just released Windows 10 as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8 customers, but some 40 percent of the patches released today apply to the new flagship OS, according to a tally by security firm Qualys. There is even an update for Microsoft Edge, the browser that Microsoft wants to replace Internet Explorer.
Nevertheless, IE gets its own critical update (MS15-089), which addresses at least 13 flaws — most of which can be exploited remotely without any help from the user, save from perhaps just visiting a hacked or malicious site.
Another notable update plugs scary-looking flaws in Microsoft Office (MS15-081). Qualys says it appears the worst of the flaws fixed in the Office patch could be triggered automatically — possibly through the Outlook e-mail preview pane, for example.
According to security firm Shavlik, there are two flaws fixed in today’s release from Microsoft that are being actively exploited in the wild: One fixed in the Office Patch (CVE-2015-1642) and another in Windows itself (CVE-2015-1769). Several other vulnerabilities fixed today were publicly disclosed prior to today, increasing the risk that we could see public exploitation of these bugs soon.
If you run Windows, take some time soon to back up your data and update your system. As ever, if you experience any issues as a result of applying any of these updates, please leave a note about your experience in the comments section.
I’ve received questions from readers about a rumored software update for Java (Java 8, Update 60); I have no idea where this is coming from, but this should not be security-related patch. Generally speaking, even-numbered Java updates are non-security related. More importantly, Oracle has moved to releasing security updates for Java on a quarterly patch cycle, except for extreme emergencies (and I’m unaware of a dire problem with Java right now, aside perhaps from having this massively buggy and insecure program installed in the first place).
Alas, not to be left out of the vulnerability madness, Oracle’s Chief Security Officer Mary Ann Davidson published a provocative blog post titled “Don’t, Just Don’t” that stirred up quite a tempestuous response from the security community today.
Davidson basically said security researchers who try to reverse engineer the company’s code to find software flaws are violating the legal agreement they acknowledged when installing the software. She also chastised researchers for spreading “a pile of steaming FUD” (a.k.a. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).
Oracle later unpublished the post (it is still available in Google’s cache here), but not before Davidson’s rant was lampooned endlessly on Twitter and called out by numerous security firms. My favorite so far came from Twitter user small_data, who said: “The City of Rome’s EULA stipulates Visigoths cannot recruit consultants who know about some hidden gate to gain entry.”