Time to Patch


23
Jun 15

Emergency Patch for Adobe Flash Zero-Day

Adobe Systems Inc. today released an emergency update to fix a dangerous security hole in its widely-installed Flash Player browser plugin. The company warned that the vulnerability is already being exploited in targeted attacks, and urged users to update the program as quickly as possible.

In an advisory issued Tuesday morning, Adobe said the latest version of Flash — v. 18.0.0.194 on Windows and Mac OS X — fixes a critical flaw (CVE-2015-3113) that is being actively exploited in “limited, targeted attacks.” The company said systems running Internet Explorer for Windows 7 and below, as well as Firefox on Windows XP, are known targets of these exploits. Continue reading →


23
Jun 15

A Month Without Adobe Flash Player

I’ve spent the better part of the last month running a little experiment to see how much I would miss Adobe‘s buggy and insecure Flash Player software if I removed it from my systems altogether. Turns out, not so much.

brokenflash-aBrowser plugins are favorite targets for malware and miscreants because they are generally full of unpatched or undocumented security holes that cybercrooks can use to seize complete control over vulnerable systems. The Flash Player plugin is a stellar example of this: It is among the most widely used browser plugins, and it requires monthly patching (if not more frequently).

It’s also not uncommon for Adobe to release emergency fixes for the software to patch flaws that bad guys started exploiting before Adobe even knew about the bugs. This happened most recently in February 2015, and twice the month prior. Adobe also shipped out-of-band Flash fixes in December and November 2014.

Update, 11:30 a.m. ET: Oddly enough, Adobe just minutes ago released an out-of-band patch to fix a zero-day flaw in Flash.

Original story:

Time was, Oracle’s Java plugin was the favorite target of exploit kits, software tools made to be stitched into hacked or malicious sites and foist on visiting browsers a kitchen sink of exploits for various plugin vulnerabilities. Lately, however, it seems to pendulum has swung back in favor of exploits for Flash Player. A popular exploit kit known as Angler, for example, bundled a new exploit for a Flash vulnerability just three days after Adobe fixed it in April 2015.

So, rather than continue the patch madness and keep this insecure software installed, I decided to the pull the…er…plugin. I tend to (ab)use different browsers for different tasks, and so uninstalling the plugin was almost as simple as uninstalling Flash, except with Chrome, which bundles its own version of Flash Player. Fear not: disabling Flash in Chrome is simple enough. 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”).

In almost 30 days, I only ran into just two instances where I encountered a site hosting a video that I absolutely needed to watch and that required Flash (an instructional video for a home gym that I could find nowhere else, and a live-streamed legislative hearing). For these, I opted to cheat and load the content into a Flash-enabled browser inside of a Linux virtual machine I have running inside of VirtualBox. In hindsight, it probably would have been easier simply to temporarily re-enable Flash in Chrome, and then disable it again until the need arose. Continue reading →


10
Jun 15

Adobe, Microsoft Issue Critical Security Fixes

Adobe today released software updates to plug at least 13 security holes in its Flash Player software. Separately, Microsoft pushed out fixes for at least three dozen flaws in Windows and associated software.

brokenwindowsThe bulk of the flaws Microsoft addressed today (23 of them) reside in the Internet Explorer Web browser. Microsoft also issued fixes for serious problems in Office, the Windows OS itself and Windows Media Player, among other components. A link to an index of the individual Microsoft updates released today is here.

As it normally does on Patch Tuesday, Adobe issued fixes for its Flash and AIR software, plugging a slew of dangerous flaws in both products. Flash continues to be one of the more complex programs to manage and update on a computer, mainly because its auto-update function tends to lag the actual patches by several days at least (your mileage may vary), and it’s difficult to know which version is the latest. Continue reading →


12
May 15

Adobe, Microsoft Push Critical Security Fixes

Microsoft today issued 13 patch bundles to fix roughly four dozen security vulnerabilities in Windows and associated software. Separately, Adobe pushed updates to fix a slew of critical flaws in its Flash Player and Adobe Air software, as well as patches to fix holes in Adobe Reader and Acrobat.

brokenwindowsThree of the Microsoft patches earned the company’s most dire “critical” rating, meaning they fix flaws that can be exploited to break into vulnerable systems with little or no interaction on the part of the user. The critical patches plug at least 30 separate flaws. The majority of those are included in a cumulative update for Internet Explorer. Other critical fixes address problems with the Windows OS, .NET, Microsoft Office, and Silverlight, among other components.

According to security vendor Shavlik, the issues address in MS15-044 deserve special priority in patching, in part because it impacts so many different Microsoft programs but also because the vulnerabilities fixed in the patch can be exploited merely by viewing specially crafted content in a Web page or a document. More information on and links to today’s individual updates can be found here.

Adobe’s fix for Flash Player and AIR fix at least 18 security holes in the programs. Updates are available for Windows, OS X and Linux versions of the software. Mac and Windows users, the latest, patched version is v. 17.0.0.188.  Continue reading →


14
Apr 15

Critical Updates for Windows, Flash, Java

Get your patch chops on people, because chances are you’re running software from Microsoft, Adobe or Oracle that received critical security updates today. Adobe released a Flash Player update to fix at least 22 flaws, including one flaw that is being actively exploited. Microsoft pushed out 11 update bundles to fix more than two dozen bugs in Windows and associated software, including one that was publicly disclosed this month. And Oracle has an update for its Java software that addresses at least 15 flaws, all of which are exploitable remotely without any authentication.

brokenflash-aAdobe’s patch includes a fix for a zero-day bug (CVE-2015-3043) that the company warns is already being exploited. Users of the Adobe Flash Player for Windows and Macintosh should update to Adobe Flash Player 17.0.0.169 (the current versions other OSes is listed in the chart below).

If you’re unsure whether your browser has Flash installed or what version it may be running, browse to this link. Adobe Flash Player installed with Google Chrome, as well as Internet Explorer on Windows 8.x, should automatically update to version 17.0.0.169.

Google has an update available for Chrome that fixes a slew of flaws, and I assume it includes this Flash update, although the Flash checker pages only report that I now have version 17.0.0 installed after applying the Chrome update and restarting (the Flash update released last month put that version at 17.0.0.134, so this is not particularly helpful). To force the installation of an available update, click the triple bar icon to the right of the address bar, select “About Google” Chrome, click the apply update button and restart the browser.

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.).

brokenwindowsMicrosoft has released 11 security bulletins this month, four of which are marked “critical,” meaning attackers or malware can exploit them to break into vulnerable systems with no help from users, save for perhaps visiting a booby-trapped or malicious Web site. The Microsoft patches fix flaws in Windows, Internet Explorer (IE), Office, and .NET

The critical updates apply to two Windows bugs, IE, and Office. .NET updates have a history of taking forever to apply and introducing issues when applied with other patches, so I’d suggest Windows users apply all other updates, restart and then install the .NET update (if available for your system). Continue reading →


18
Mar 15

OpenSSL Patch to Plug Severe Security Holes

The world is about to get another reminder about just how much of the Internet runs on technology maintained by a handful of coders working on a shoestring budget. OpenSSL — the software used by thousands of companies to encrypt online communications — is set to get a security makeover this week: The OpenSSL project said it plans to release new versions of its code to fix a number of security weaknesses, including some classified as “high” severity.

iheartOpenSSL is deployed at countless organizations, including at Web giants like Facebook, Google and Yahoo — as well as broadly across U.S. federal government networks. As its name suggests, OpenSSL implements Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption (also known as “transport layer security” or TLS) for Web sites and associated networks, ensuring that the data cannot be read by untrusted parties.

The patch is likely to set off a mad scramble by security teams at organizations that rely on OpenSSL. That’s because security updates — particularly those added to open-source software like OpenSSL that anyone can view — give cybercriminals a road map toward finding out where the fixed vulnerabilities lie and insight into how to exploit those flaws.

Indeed, while the OpenSSL project plans to issue the updates on Thursday, Mar. 19, the organization isn’t pre-releasing any details about the fixes. Steve Marquess, a founding partner at the OpenSSL Software Foundation, said that information will only be shared in advance with the major operating system vendors.

“We’d like to let everyone know so they can be prepared and so forth, but we have been slowly driven to a pretty brutal policy of no [advance] disclosure,” Marquess said. “One of our main revenue sources is support contracts, and we don’t even give them advance notice.”

Advance notice helps not only defenders, but attackers as well. Last year, ne’er-do-wells pounced on Heartbleed, the nickname given to an extremely critical flaw in OpenSSL that allowed anyone to extract passwords, cookies and other sensitive data from servers that were running vulnerable versions of OpenSSL. This Heartbleed disclosure timeline explains a great deal about how that process unfolded in a less-than-ideal manner. Continue reading →


12
Mar 15

Adobe Flash Update Plugs 11 Security Holes

Adobe has released an update for its Flash Player software that fixes at least 11 separate, critical security vulnerabilities in the program. If you have Flash installed, please take a moment to ensure your systems are updated.

brokenflash-aNot sure whether your browser has Flash installed or what version it may be running? Browse to this link. The newest, patched version is 17.0.0.134 for Windows and Mac users. Adobe Flash Player installed with Google Chrome, as well as Internet Explorer on Windows 8.x, should automatically update to version 17.0.0.134.

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.).

The last few Flash updates from Adobe have been in response to zero-day threats targeting previously unknown vulnerabilities in the program. But Adobe says it is not aware of any exploits in the wild for the issues addressed in this update. Adobe’s advisory on this patch is available here.


10
Mar 15

Microsoft Fixes Stuxnet Bug, Again

Microsoft today shipped a bundle of security updates to address more than three dozen vulnerabilities in Windows and associated software. Included in the batch is a fix for a flaw first patched in 2010 — the very same vulnerability that led to the discovery of the infamous cyberweapon known as Stuxnet. Turns out, the patch that Microsoft shipped to fix that flaw in 2010 didn’t quite do the trick, leaving Windows users dangerously exposed all this time.

brokenwindowsOn this, the third Patch Tuesday of 2015, Microsoft pushed 14 update bundles to address at least 43 separate vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Exchange, Office and a host of other components.

Five of the the patches released today fix flaws that Microsoft has assigned its most serious “critical” label, meaning the vulnerabilities these patches fix can be exploited to compromise vulnerable systems through little or no action on the part of the user — save for perhaps opening a booby-trapped file or visiting a hacked/malicious Web site.

One of the more curious critical fixes is MS15-020, which according to HP’s Zero Day Initiative researchers addresses the same vulnerability that Microsoft patched in August 2010. That vulnerability — first revealed in a post on this blog July 15, 2010 — was later discovered to have been one of four zero-day flaws used in Stuxnet, a weapon of unprecedented sophistication that is now widely considered to have been a joint U.S. and Israeli project aimed at delaying Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The folks at HP TippingPoint have published a blog post on their work in uncovering the failed fix, and how the original 2010 patch missed the mark. For more on Stuxnet, check out Kim Zetter‘s excellent new book, Countdown To Zero Day. Continue reading →


5
Feb 15

Yet Another Flash Patch Fixes Zero-Day Flaw

For the third time in two weeks, Adobe has issued an emergency security update for its Flash Player software to fix a dangerous zero-day vulnerability that hackers already are exploiting to launch drive-by download attacks.

brokenflash-aThe newest update, version 16.0.0.305, addresses a critical security bug (CVE-2015-0313) present in the version of Flash that Adobe released on Jan. 27 (v. 16.0.0.296). Adobe said it is are aware of reports that this vulnerability is being actively exploited in the wild via drive-by-download attacks against systems running Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 8.1 and below.

Adobe’s advisory credits both Trend Micro and Microsoft with reporting this bug. Trend Micro published a blog post three days ago warning that the flaw was being used in malvertising attacks – booby-trapped ads uploaded by criminals to online ad networks. Trend also published a more in-depth post examining this flaw’s use in the Hanjuan Exploit Kit, a crimeware package made to be stitched into hacked Web sites and foist malware on visitors via browser plug-in flaws like this one. Continue reading →


27
Jan 15

Yet Another Emergency Flash Player Patch

For the second time in a week, Adobe has issued an emergency update to fix a critical security flaw that crooks are actively exploiting in its Flash Player software. Updates are available for Flash Player on Windows and Mac OS X.

brokenflash-aLast week, Adobe released an out-of-band Flash Patch to fix a dangerous bug that attackers were already exploiting. In that advisory, Adobe said it was aware of yet another zero-day flaw that also was being exploited, but that last week’s patch didn’t fix that flaw.

Earlier this week, Adobe began pushing out Flash v. 16.0.0.296 to address the outstanding zero-day flaw. Adobe said users who have enabled auto-update for Flash Player will be receiving the update automatically this week. Alternatively, users can manually update by downloading the latest version from this page.

Adobe said it is working with its distribution partners to make the update available in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 10 and 11. Google Chrome version 40.0.2214.93 includes this update, and is available now. To check for updates in Chrome, click the stacked three bars to the right of the address bar in Chrome, and look for a listing near the bottom that says “Update Chrome.”

To see which version of Flash you have installed, check this link. 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.).