Adobe has issued security updates to fix weaknesses in its PDF Reader and Cold Fusion products, while pointing to an update to be released later this week for its ubiquitous Flash Player browser plugin. Microsoft meanwhile today released 16 update bundles to address dozens of security flaws in Windows, Internet Explorer and related software.
Microsoft’s patch batch includes updates for “zero-day” vulnerabilities (flaws that attackers figure out how to exploit before before the software maker does) in Internet Explorer (IE) and in Windows. Half of the 16 patches that Redmond issued today earned its “critical” rating, meaning the vulnerabilities could be exploited remotely through no help from the user, save for perhaps clicking a link, opening a file or visiting a hacked or malicious Web site.
According to security firm Shavlik, two of the Microsoft patches tackle issues that were publicly disclosed prior to today’s updates, including bugs in IE and the Microsoft .NET Framework.
Anytime there’s a .NET Framework update available, I always uncheck those updates to install and then reboot and install the .NET updates; I’ve had too many .NET update failures muddy the process of figuring out which update borked a Windows machine after a batch of patches to do otherwise, but your mileage may vary.
On the Adobe side, the pending Flash update fixes a single vulnerability that apparently is already being exploited in active attacks online. However, Shavlik says there appears to be some confusion about how many bugs are fixed in the Flash update.
“If information gleaned from [Microsoft’s account of the Flash Player update] MS16-064 is accurate, this Zero Day will be accompanied by 23 additional CVEs, with the release expected on May 12th,” Shavlik wrote. “With this in mind, the recommendation is to roll this update out immediately.”
Adobe says the vulnerability is included in Adobe Flash Player 188.8.131.52 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Chrome OS, and that the flaw will be fixed in a version of Flash to be released May 12.
As far as Flash is concerned, the smartest option is probably best to hobble or ditch the program once and for all — and significantly increase the security of your system in the process. I’ve got more on that approach (as well as slightly less radical solutions ) in A Month Without Adobe Flash Player.
If you use Adobe Reader to display PDF documents, you’ll need to update that, too. Alternatively, consider switching to another reader that is perhaps less targeted. Adobe Reader comes bundled with a number of third-party software products, but many Windows users may not realize there are alternatives, including some good free ones. For a time I used Foxit Reader, but that program seems to have grown more bloated with each release. My current preference is Sumatra PDF; it is lightweight (about 40 times smaller than Adobe Reader) and quite fast.
Finally, if you run a Web site that in any way relies on Adobe’s Cold Fusion technology, please update your software soon. Cold Fusion vulnerabilities have traditionally been targeted by cyber thieves to compromise countless online shops.