Posts Tagged: click-to-play

Nov 15

Critical Fixes for Windows, Adobe Flash Player

For the third time in a month, Adobe has issued an update to plug security holes in its Flash Player software. The update came on Patch Tuesday, when Microsoft released a dozen patches to fix dozens of vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, Skype and other software.

brokenwindowsOne-quarter of the patches from Microsoft address flaws that the company labels “critical,” meaning they can be exploited by malware or malcontents to break into vulnerable systems with no help from users. Four of the bulletins address vulnerabilities that were publicly disclosed prior to Patch Tuesday, meaning malicious hackers had a head start in figuring out how to exploit those weaknesses.

Top of the priority list among these 12 patches should probably be the one for Internet Explorer, which fixes more than two dozen flaws in IE, nearly all of them critical, browse-to-a-hacked-site-and-get-owned flaws. Another patch, MS15-113, fixes critical bugs in Microsoft’s Edge Browser, its intended replacement for IE. Also of note is a Microsoft Office patch that addresses seven flaws.

This month also includes a patch for .NET, a program that past experience has taught me to patch separately. If you use Windows and Windows Update says you have patches available for .NET, consider unchecking those updates until you’ve applied the rest released on Tuesday. Reboot and install any available .NET updates.

Separately, Adobe issued a patch for its Flash Player software that fixes at least 17 vulnerabilities in the program and in Adobe AIR. Adobe says it is not aware of any exploits in the wild for issues addressed in this update, but readers should seriously consider whether having Flash installed and/or enabled in the browser is worth the risk.  Continue reading →

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 →

May 14

The Mad, Mad Dash to Update Flash

An analysis of how quickly different browser users patch Adobe Flash vulnerabilities shows a marked variation among browser makers. The data suggest that Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox users tend to get Flash updates relatively quickly, while many users on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser consistently lag behind.

The information comes from ThreatMetrix, a company that helps retailers and financial institutions detect and block patterns of online fraud. ThreatMetrix Chief Technology Officer Andreas Baumhof looked back over the past five months across 10,000+ sites the company serves, to see how quickly visitors were updating to the latest versions of Flash.

Baumhof measured the rates of update adoption for these six Flash patches:

Jan 14, 2014 – APSB14-02 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (2 critical vulnerabilities)

Feb 4, 2014 – APSB14-04 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (2 critical flaws, including 1 zero-day)

Feb 20, 2014 – APSB14-07 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (1 zero-day)

Mar 11, 2014 – APSB14-08 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (2 critical vulnerabilities)

Apr 8, 2014, – APSB14-09 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (4 critical vulnerabilities)

Apr 28, 2014 – APSB14-13 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (1 zero-day)

Overall, Google Chrome users were protected the fastest. According to Baumhof, Chrome usually takes just a few days to push the latest update out to 90 percent of users. Chrome pioneered auto-updates for Flash several years ago, with Firefox and newer versions of IE both following suit in recent years.

The adoption rate, broken down by browser type, of the last six Adobe Flash updates.

The adoption rate, broken down by browser type, of the last six Adobe Flash updates.

Interestingly, the data show that IE users tend to receive updates at a considerably slower clip (although there are a few times in which IE surpasses Firefox users in adoption of the latest Flash updates).  This probably has to do with the way Flash is updated on IE, and the legacy versions of IE that are still out there. Flash seems to have more of a seamless auto-update process on IE 10 and 11 on Windows 8 and above, and more of a manual one on earlier versions of the browser and operating system.

Another explanation for IE’s performance here is that it is commonly used in business environments, which tend to take a few days at least to test patches before rolling them out in a coordinated fashion across the enterprise along with the rest of the Patch Tuesday updates. Continue reading →

Apr 14

Adobe Update Nixes Flash Player Zero Day

Adobe Systems Inc. has shipped an emergency security update to fix a critical flaw in its Flash Player software that is currently being exploited in active attacks. The exploits so far appear to target Microsoft Windows users, but updates also are available for Mac and Linux versions of Flash.

brokenflash-aThe Flash update brings the media player to v. on Windows and Mac systems, and v. for Linux users. To see which version of Flash you have installed, check this link.

IE10/IE11 and Chrome should auto-update their versions of Flash. If your version of Flash on Chrome (on either Windows, Mac or Linux) is not yet updated, you may just need to close and restart the browser.

The most recent versions of Flash 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.).

In its advisory about this vulnerability, Adobe said it is aware of reports that an exploit for the flaw (CVE-2014-0515) exists in the wild, and is being used to target Flash Player users on the Windows platform. Continue reading →

Mar 13

Help Keep Threats at Bay With ‘Click-to-Play’

Muzzling buggy and insecure Web browser plugins like Java and Flash goes a long way toward blocking attacks from drive-by downloads and hacked or malicious Web sites. But leaving them entirely unplugged from the browser is not always practical, particularly with Flash, which is used on a majority of sites. Fortunately for many users, there is a relatively simple and effective alternative: Click-to-Play.

c2pGCClick-to-Play is a feature built into both Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera (and available via add-ons in Safari) that blocks plugin activity by default, replacing the plugin content on the page with a blank box. Users who wish to view the blocked content need only click the boxes to enable the Flash or Java content inside of them.

To enable click-to-play on Chrome: From the main menu, click Settings, then in the search box type “click to play,” and click the highlighted box labeled “content settings.” In content settings, scroll down to the “plug-ins” section, and change the default from “run automatically” to “click to play”. To enable exceptions so that certain sites ( are allowed to load Flash and other content by default, click the “manage exceptions” box. Alternatively, this can be done in Chrome through the address bar: when you browse to a site that has content blocked by the click-to-play feature, an icon will appear on the far right side of the address bar that allows you to add an exception for the current site.

c2pFFTo enable click-to-play in Firefox: Open a browser window and type “about:config” without the quotes. In the search box at the top of the resulting window, paste the follow “plugins.click_to_play”, again without the quotes. Double click the entry that shows up so that its setting under the “value” column changes from “false” to “true” (hat tip to for this advice). To enable per-site exceptions, look for the blue lego-like icon in the lefthand portion of the URL bar, and click it; click the “activate” button to enable plugins just for that session, or to make it permanent for that site, click the down arrow next to “activate all plugins” and select the “always activate plugins for this site” option.

Continue reading →