Posts Tagged: personal software inspector


9
Apr 13

Critical Fixes for Windows, Flash & Shockwave

The second Tuesday of the month is upon us, and that means it’s once again time to get your patches on, people (at least for readers running Windows or Adobe products). Microsoft today pushed out nine patch bundles to plug security holes in Windows and its other products. Separately, Adobe issued updates for its Flash and Shockwave media players that address four distinct security holes in each program.

winiconMicrosoft called special attention to a cumulative update for Internet Explorer that fixes two critical vulnerabilities present in virtually every version of IE ever produced, including IE 9, 10 and IE on Windows RT, the operating system for mobile devices and tablets.

The other critical patch in the bunch addresses a dangerous vulnerability in the Windows Remote Desktop Client, which allows systems to be managed remotely. For a rundown of the other updates released today, check out the Qualys blog, the Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for April 2013 and the Microsoft Security Response Blog.

Adobe’s update brings Adobe Flash Player to v. 11.7.700.169 on Windows and Mac devices (the latest version numbers for other operating systems are listed in the chart below). Internet Explorer 10 and Google Chrome should automatically update to the latest version. Google has already pushed out the Flash update with Chrome v. 26.0.1410.63 for Mac and Linux, and v. 26.0.1410.64 for Windows; if your Chrome version isn’t at the latest (you can check which version by clicking the customize tab to the right of the address bar and then “About Google Chrome’), try closing and restarting the browser. Continue reading →


4
Feb 13

Flaw Flood Busts Bug Bank

The Common Vulnerability & Exposures (CVE) index, the industry standard for cataloging software security flaws, is growing so rapidly that it will soon be adding a few more notches to its belt: The CVE  said it plans to allow for up to 100 times more individual vulnerabilities to be indexed each year to accommodate an increasing number of software flaw reports.

beltfixCurrently, when a vulnerability is reported or discovered, it is assigned a CVE number that corresponds to the year it was reported, followed by a unique 4-digit number. For example, a recent zero-day Java flaw discovered earlier this year was assigned the identifier CVE-2013-0422.  But in a recent publication, The MITRE Corp., the organization that maintains the index, said it wanted to hear feedback on several proposed changes, such as modifying the CVE to allow for up to 999,999 vulnerabilities to be cataloged annually.

“Due to the increasing volume of public vulnerability reports, the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project will change the syntax of its standard vulnerability identifiers so that CVE can track more than 10,000 vulnerabilities in a single year,”  CVE Project announced last month. “The current syntax, CVE-YYYY-NNNN, only supports a maximum of 9,999 unique identifiers per year.”

It’s not clear if this shift means software is getting buggier or if simply more people are looking for flaws in more places (probably both), but new research released today suggests that bug finders have more incentive than ever to discover — and potentially get paid handsomely for — new security holes.

For example, one of the hottest areas of vulnerability research right now centers on the industrial control system space — the computers and networks that manage critical infrastructure systems which support everything from the power grid to water purification, manufacturing and transportation systems. In a report released today, Austin, Texas based security firm NSS Labs said the number of reported vulnerabilities in these critical systems has grown by 600 percent in 2010 and nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012 alone.

NSS’s Stefan Frei found that 2012 reversed a long running trend of decreasing vulnerability disclosures each year. At the same time, NSS tracked a decline in vulnerabilities being reported by perhaps the top two organizations that pay researchers to find bugs. For example, Frei noted, iDefense‘s Vulnerability Contributor Program (VCP) and HP Tipping Point‘s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) each reversed their five-year-long rise in vulnerability reports with a reduction of more than 50 percent in 2012.

Frei suggests one major reason for the decline in bugs reported by ZDI and the VCP: researchers looking to sell vulnerability discoveries today have many more options that at any time in the past.

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11
Dec 12

Critical Updates for Flash Player, Microsoft Windows

Adobe and Microsoft have each released security updates to fix critical security flaws in their software. Microsoft issued seven update bundles to fix at least 10 vulnerabilities in Windows and other software. Separately, Adobe pushed out a fix for its Flash Player and AIR software that address at least three critical vulnerabilities in these programs.

A majority of the bugs quashed in Microsoft’s patch batch are critical security holes, meaning that malware or miscreants could exploit them to seize control over vulnerable systems with little or no help from users. Among the critical patches is an update for Internet Explorer versions 9 and 10 (Redmond says these flaws are not present in earlier versions of IE).

Other critical patches address issues with the Windows kernel, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Exchange Server. The final critical bug is a file handling vulnerability in Windows XP, Vista and 7 that Microsoft said could allow remote code execution if a user browses to a folder that contains a file or subfolder with a specially crafted name. Yikes. Updates are available through Windows Update or via Automatic Updates.

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30
Mar 11

Test Your Browser’s Patch Status

With new security updates from vendors like Adobe, Apple and Java coming out on a near-monthly basis, keeping your Web browser patched against the latest threats can be an arduous, worrisome chore. But a new browser plug-in from security firm Qualys makes it quick and painless to identify and patch outdated browser components.

Qualys Browser Check plug-inThe Qualys BrowserCheck plug-in works across multiple browsers — including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Opera, on multiple operating systems. Install the plug-in, restart the browser, click the blue “Scan Now” button, and the results should let you know if there are any security or stability updates available for your installed plug-ins (a list of the plug-ins and add-ons that this program can check is available here). Clicking the blue “Fix It” button next to each action item listed fetches the appropriate installer from the vendor’s site and prompts you to download and install it. Re-scan as needed until the browser plug-ins are up to date.

Secunia has long had a very similar capability built into its free Personal Software Inspector program, but I realize not everyone wants to install a new program + Windows service to stay abreast of the latest patches (Secunia also offers a Web-based scan, but it requires Java, a plug-in that I have urged users to ditch if possible). The nice thing about Qualys’ plug-in approach is that it works not only on Windows, but also on Mac and Linux machines. On Windows 64-bit systems, only the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer is supported, and the plug-in thankfully nudges IE6 and IE7 users to upgrade to at least IE8.

Having the latest browser updates in one, easy-to-manage page is nice, but remember that the installers you download may by default come with additional programs bundled by the various plug-in makers. For example, when I updated Adobe’s Shockwave player on my test machine, the option to install  Registry Mechanic was pre-checked. The same thing happened when I went to update my Foxit Reader plug-in, which wanted to set Ask.com as my default search provider, set ask.com as my home page, and have the Foxit toolbar added.


8
Sep 10

Revisiting Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector

Security vulnerability research firm Secunia has released a public beta of its Personal Software Inspector tool, a program designed to help Microsoft Windows users keep their heads above water with the torrent of security updates for third-party applications. The new beta version includes the promised auto-update feature that can automatically apply the latest patches for a growing number of widely-used programs.

Secunia first announced in March that it would soon make the auto-update feature available to consumers, noting that the average PC user needs to install a security update roughly every five days in order to safely use Microsoft Windows and all of the third-party programs that  typically run on top of it.  The new beta version doesn’t allow auto-updating for all applications, although Secunia says the list of applications that can be auto-updated through its tool will grow as the public beta progresses.

Overall, PSI 2.0 Beta seems to work quite a bit faster and use fewer resources than earlier versions. But my main concern in allowing third-party programs to update through PSI has so far been — ironically — relinquishing control over the update process. That’s because many “free” applications — such as Java, Adobe and Foxit readers — are free because a number of users never bother to deselect the check mark in the box next to offers to install additional software that is often bundled with these products, including virus scanners and various browser toolbars.

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1
Jul 10

Top Apps Largely Forgo Windows Security Protections

Many of the most widely used third-party software applications for Microsoft Windows do not take advantage of two major lines of defense built into the operating system that can help block attacks from hackers and viruses, according to research released today.

Attackers usually craft software exploits so that they write data or programs to very specific, static sections in the operating system’s memory. To counter this, Microsoft introduced with Windows Vista (and Windows 7) a feature called address space layout randomization or ASLR, which constantly moves these memory points to different positions. Another defensive feature called data execution prevention (DEP) — first introduced with Windows XP Service Pack 2 back in 2004 — attempts to make it so that even if an attacker succeeds in guessing the location of the memory point they’re seeking, the code placed there will not execute or run.

These protections are available to any applications built to run on top of the operation system. But according to a new analysis by software vulnerability management firm Secunia, half of the third party apps they looked at fail to leverage either feature.

As indicated by the chart to the right, Secunia found that at least 50 percent of the applications examined — including Apple Quicktime, Foxit Reader, Google Picasa, Java, OpenOffice.org, RealPlayer, VideoLAN VLC Player, and AOL‘s Winamp — still do not invoke either DEP or ASLR. Secunia said DEP adoption has been slow and uneven between operating system versions, and that ASLR support is improperly implemented by nearly all vendors.

“If both DEP and ASLR are correctly deployed, the ease of exploit development decreases significantly,” wrote Alin Rad Pop, a senior security specialist at Secunia. “While most Microsoft applications take full advantage of DEP and ASLR, third-party applications have yet to fully adapt to the requirements of the two mechanisms. If we also consider the increasing number of vulnerabilities discovered in third-party applications, an attackers choice for targeting a popular third-party application rather than a Microsoft product becomes very understandable.”

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