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.
Microsoft 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.
This link should tell you which version of Flash your browser has installed. The most recent versions are available from the Adobe download center, 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 will need to apply this patch twice, once with IE and again using the alternative browser (Firefox, Opera, e.g.).
Adobe also issued an update for its Shockwave Player software that fixes at least four vulnerabilities, bringing Shockwave to v. 184.108.40.206 on Windows and Mac systems. Shockwave is one of those programs that I’ve urged readers to remove or avoid installing. Like Java, it is powerful and very often buggy software that many people have installed but do not really need for everyday Web browsing. Securing your system means not only making sure things are locked down, but removing unneeded programs, and Shockwave is near the top of my list on that front.
If you visit this link and see a short animation, it should tell you which version of Shockwave you have installed. If it prompts you to download Shockwave, then you don’t have Shockwave installed and in all likelihood don’t need it. Firefox users should note that the presence of the Shockwave Flash plugin listed in the Firefox Add-ons section denotes an installation of Adobe Flash Player plugin — not Adobe Shockwave.
Finally, if you have Adobe AIR installed (required by some programs like Tweetdeck and Pandora Desktop), you’ll want to update this program. AIR ships with an auto-update function that should prompt users to update when they start an application that requires it; the newest, patched version is 220.127.116.110 for Windows, Mac, and Android.
If all of this patch craziness has your head spinning, consider using some free tools to help automate the process for you. File Hippo’s Update Checker works great on this front, as does Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector (I prefer PSI 2 over PSI 3, but your mileage may vary). And, as ever, if you experience any problems or interesting issues applying the Windows updates or any of the other patches, please drop a note in the comments section below.