Adobe has issued a patch to fix a zero-day vulnerability in its Flash Player software. Separately, Oracle today released an update to plug more than two-dozen flaws in its Java software. Both programs plug directly into the browser and are highly targeted by malicious software and malefactors. Although Flash and Java are both widely installed, most users could probably ditch each program with little to no inconvenience or regret.
The latest Flash version, Flash 188.8.131.52 on Windows and Mac, fixes a flaw that Adobe warned last week was already being exploited in active attacks. As I noted in a previous post, most users can jump off the incessant Flash-patching merry-go-round by simply removing the program — or hobbling it until and unless it is needed for some purpose or site.
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. Another alternative to removing Flash is Click-To-Play, which lets you control what Flash (and Java) content gets to load when you visit a Web page.
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.).
Separately, Oracle has released its quarterly patch update for Java, another powerful browser plugin that also is heavily targeted by malware and ne’er-do-wells. This update for Java — which brings the program to Java 8 Update 65 — fixes at least 25 security vulnerabilities. According to Oracle, all but one of those flaws may be remotely exploitable without authentication, meaning they can be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password.
If you have Java installed, please update it as soon as possible. Windows users can check for the program in the Add/Remove Programs listing in Windows, or visit Java.com and click the “Do I have Java?” link on the homepage. Updates also should be available via the Java Control Panel or from Java.com.
If you really need and use Java for specific Web sites or applications, take a few minutes to update this software. Otherwise, seriously consider removing Java altogether. I have long urged end users to junk Java unless they have a specific use for it (this advice does not scale for businesses, which often have legacy and custom applications that rely on Java). This widely installed and powerful program is riddled with security holes, and is a top target of malware writers and miscreants.
If you have an affirmative use or need for Java, there is a way to have this program installed while minimizing the chance that crooks will exploit unknown or unpatched flaws in the program: unplug it from the browser unless and until you’re at a site that requires it (or at least take advantage of click-to-play, which can block Web sites from displaying both Java and Flash content by default). The latest versions of Java let users disable Java content in web browsers through the Java Control Panel. Alternatively, consider a dual-browser approach, unplugging Java 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 Java.