Posts Tagged: internet explorer

Oct 16

Microsoft: No More Pick-and-Choose Patching

Adobe and Microsoft today each issued updates to fix critical security flaws in their products. Adobe’s got fixes for Acrobat and Flash Player ready. Microsoft’s patch bundle for October includes fixes for at least five separate “zero-day” vulnerabilities — dangerous flaws that attackers were already exploiting prior to today’s patch release. Also notable this month is that Microsoft is changing how it deploys security updates, removing the ability for Windows users to pick and choose which individual patches to install.

brokenwindowsZero-day vulnerabilities describe flaws that even the makers of the targeted software don’t know about before they start seeing the flaws exploited in the wild, meaning the vendor has “zero days” to fix the bugs.

According to security vendor Qualys, Patch Tuesday updates fix zero-day bugs in Internet Explorer and Edge — the default browsers on different versions of Windows. MS16-121 addresses a zero-day in Microsoft Office. Another zero-day flaw affects GDI+ — a graphics component built into Windows that can be exploitable through the browser. The final zero-day is present in the Internet Messaging component of Windows.

Starting this month, home and business Windows users will no longer be able to pick and choose which updates to install and which to leave for another time. For example, I’ve often advised home users to hold off on installing .NET updates until all other patches for the month are applied — reasoning that .NET updates are very large and in my experience have frequently been found to be the source of problems when applying huge numbers of patches simultaneously.

But that cafeteria-style patching goes out the…err…Windows with this month’s release. Microsoft made the announcement in May of this year and revisited the subject again in August to add more detail behind its decision:

“Historically, we have released individual patches for these platforms, which allowed you to be selective with the updates you deployed,” wrote Nathan Mercer, a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft. “This resulted in fragmentation where different PCs could have a different set of updates installed leading to multiple potential problems:

  • Various combinations caused sync and dependency errors and lower update quality
  • Testing complexity increased for enterprises
  • Scan times increased
  • Finding and applying the right patches became challenging
  • Customers encountered issues where a patch was already released, but because it was in limited distribution it was hard to find and apply proactively

By moving to a rollup model, we bring a more consistent and simplified servicing experience to Windows 7 SP1 and 8.1, so that all supported versions of Windows follow a similar update servicing model. The new rollup model gives you fewer updates to manage, greater predictability, and higher quality updates. The outcome increases Windows operating system reliability, by eliminating update fragmentation and providing more proactive patches for known issues. Getting and staying current will also be easier with only one rollup update required. Rollups enable you to bring your systems up to date with fewer updates, and will minimize administrative overhead to install a large number of updates.”

Microsoft’s patch policy changes are slightly different for home versus business customers. Consumers on Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows 8.1 will henceforth receive what Redmond is calling a “Monthly Rollup,” which addresses both security issues and reliability issues in a single update. The “Security-only updates” option — intended for enterprises and not available via Windows Update —  will only include new security patches that are released for that month. 

What this means is that if any part of the patch bundle breaks, the only option is to remove the entire bundle (instead of the offending patch, as was previously possible). I have no doubt this simplifies things for Microsoft and likely saves them a ton of money, but my concern is this will leave end-users unable to apply critical patches simply due to a single patch breaking something. Continue reading →

Sep 16

Adobe, Microsoft Push Critical Updates

Adobe and Microsoft on Tuesday each issued updates to fix multiple critical security vulnerabilities in their software. Adobe pushed a patch that addresses 29 security holes in its widely-used Flash Player browser plug-in. Microsoft released some 14 patch bundles to correct at least 50 flaws in Windows and associated software, including a zero-day bug in Internet Explorer.

brokenwindowsHalf of the updates Microsoft released Tuesday earned the company’s most dire “critical” rating, meaning they could be exploited by malware or miscreants to install malicious software with no help from the user, save for maybe just visiting a hacked or booby-trapped Web site. Security firms Qualys and Shavlik have more granular writeups on the Microsoft patches.

Adobe’s advisory for this Flash Update is here. It brings Flash to v. for Windows and Mac users. If you have Flash installed, you should update, hobble or remove Flash as soon as possible. Continue reading →

Jul 16

Adobe, Microsoft Patch Critical Security Bugs

Adobe has pushed out a critical update to plug at least 52 security holes in its widely-used Flash Player browser plugin, and another update to patch holes in Adobe Reader. Separately, Microsoft released 11 security updates to fix vulnerabilities more than 40 flaws in Windows and related software.

brokenflash-aFirst off, if you have Adobe Flash Player installed and haven’t yet hobbled this insecure program so that it runs only when you want it to, you are playing with fire. It’s bad enough that hackers are constantly finding and exploiting zero-day flaws in Flash Player before Adobe even knows about the bugs.

The bigger issue is that Flash is an extremely powerful program that runs inside the browser, which means users can compromise their computer just by browsing to a hacked or malicious site that targets unpatched Flash flaws.

The smartest option is probably to ditch this insecure 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 choose to update, please do it today. The most recent versions of Flash should be available from this Flash distribution page or the Flash home page. 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.). Chrome and IE should auto-install the latest Flash version on browser restart.

Happily, Adobe has delayed plans to stop distributing direct download links to its Flash Player program. The company had said it would decommission the direct download page on June 30, 2016, but the latest, patched Flash version for Windows and Mac systems is still available there. The wording on the site has been changed to indicate the download links will be decommissioned “soon.” Continue reading →

May 16

Adobe, Microsoft Push Critical Updates

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” vulnbrokenwindowserabilities (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. Continue reading →

Mar 16

Adobe, Microsoft Push Critical Updates

Microsoft today pushed out 13 security updates to fix at least 39 separate vulnerabilities in its various Windows operating systems and software. Five of the updates fix flaws that allow hackers or malware to break into vulnerable systems without any help from the user, save for perhaps visiting a hacked Web site.

brokenwindowsThe bulk of the security holes plugged in this month’s Patch Tuesday reside in either Internet Explorer or in Microsoft’s flagship browser — Edge. As security firm Shavlik notes, Microsoft’s claim that Edge is more secure than IE seems to be holding out, albeit not by much. So far this year, Shavlik found, Edge has required 19 fixes versus IE’s 27.

Windows users who get online with a non-Microsoft browser still need to get their patches on: Ten of the updates affect Windows — including three other critical updates from Microsoft. As always, Qualys has a readable post about the rest of the Microsoft patches. If you experience any issues with the Windows patches, please share your experience in the comments below.

As it is known to do on patch Tuesday, Adobe issued security updates for its Reader and Acrobat software. Alas, there appears to be no update for Adobe’s Flash Player plugin as per usual on Patch Tuesday. However, an Adobe spokesperson told KrebsOnSecurity that the company will be issuing a Flash Player update on Thursday morning.

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 →

Sep 15

Microsoft Pushes a Dozen Security Updates

Microsoft today released a dozen security updates for computers running supported versions of its Windows operating system. Five of the patches fix flaws that could get PCs compromised with little to no help from users, and five of the bulletins have vulnerabilities that were publicly disclosed before today (including one that reportedly has been detected in exploits in the wild). Separately, Adobe is pushing a security update for its Shockwave Player – a browser plugin that I’ve long urged readers to junk.

brokenwindowsAccording to security firm Shavlik, the patches that address flaws which have already been publicly disclosed include a large Internet Explorer (IE) update that corrects 17 flaws and a fix for Microsoft Edge, Redmond’s flagship replacement browser for IE; both address this bug, among others.

A critical fix for a Windows graphics component addresses flaws that previously showed up in two public disclosures, one of which Shavlik says is currently being exploited in the wild (CVE-2015-2546).  The 100th patch that Microsoft has issued so far this year — a salve for Windows Media Player – fixes two different vulnerabilities that were publicly disclosed before today (CVE-2015-2509 and CVE-2015-2504).

In other important patch news today, Adobe has released a security update for its Shockwave Player browser plugin. If you need this program, then update it; the latest version is v. But in my experience, most users don’t need it and are better off without it. For more on what I say that, see Why You Should Ditch Adobe Shockwave.

Not sure whether your computer has Shockwave installed? 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 (or in the case of Google Chrome for some reason just automatically downloads the installer), then you don’t have Shockwave installed. To remove Shockwave, grab Adobe’s uninstall tool here. Mozilla 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 Player.

Apr 15

Critical Updates for Windows, Flash, Java

Get your patch chops on people, because chances are you’re running software from Microsoft, Adobe or Oracle that received critical security updates today. Adobe released a Flash Player update to fix at least 22 flaws, including one flaw that is being actively exploited. Microsoft pushed out 11 update bundles to fix more than two dozen bugs in Windows and associated software, including one that was publicly disclosed this month. And Oracle has an update for its Java software that addresses at least 15 flaws, all of which are exploitable remotely without any authentication.

brokenflash-aAdobe’s patch includes a fix for a zero-day bug (CVE-2015-3043) that the company warns is already being exploited. Users of the Adobe Flash Player for Windows and Macintosh should update to Adobe Flash Player (the current versions other OSes is listed in the chart below).

If you’re unsure whether your browser has Flash installed or what version it may be running, browse to this link. Adobe Flash Player installed with Google Chrome, as well as Internet Explorer on Windows 8.x, should automatically update to version

Google has an update available for Chrome that fixes a slew of flaws, and I assume it includes this Flash update, although the Flash checker pages only report that I now have version 17.0.0 installed after applying the Chrome update and restarting (the Flash update released last month put that version at, so this is not particularly helpful). To force the installation of an available update, click the triple bar icon to the right of the address bar, select “About Google” Chrome, click the apply update button and restart the browser.

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.).

brokenwindowsMicrosoft has released 11 security bulletins this month, four of which are marked “critical,” meaning attackers or malware can exploit them to break into vulnerable systems with no help from users, save for perhaps visiting a booby-trapped or malicious Web site. The Microsoft patches fix flaws in Windows, Internet Explorer (IE), Office, and .NET

The critical updates apply to two Windows bugs, IE, and Office. .NET updates have a history of taking forever to apply and introducing issues when applied with other patches, so I’d suggest Windows users apply all other updates, restart and then install the .NET update (if available for your system). Continue reading →

Feb 15

Microsoft Pushes Patches for Dozens of Flaws

Microsoft today released nine update bundles to plug at least 55 distinct security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating system and other software. Three of the patches fix bugs in Windows that Microsoft considers “critical,” meaning they can be exploited remotely to compromise vulnerable systems with little or no help from users, save for perhaps clicking a link or visiting a hostile Web site.

brokenwindowsThe bulk of the flaws (41) addressed in this update apply to Internet Explorer, the default browser on Windows. This patch should obviously be a priority for any organizations that rely on IE. Other patches fix bugs in the Windows OS itself and in various versions of Microsoft Office. A full breakdown of the patches is available here.

Among the more interesting critical patches is a fix for a vulnerability in Microsoft Group Policy that could present unique threats for enterprises that rely on Active Directory, the default authentication mechanism on corporate Windows networks.  The vulnerability is remotely exploitable and can be used to grant attackers administrator-level privileges on the targeted machine or device –  that means 10s of millions of PCS, kiosks and other devices, if left untreated.

Several readers who’ve already applied these updates report that doing so may require multiple restarts of Windows. Patches are available via Windows Update, the patching mechanism built into all recent and supported versions of Windows. For more granular information about these patches, check out this blog post by Qualys as well as the always-useful roundup at the SANS Internet Storm Center.

As always, if you experience any issues applying these patches or after applying them, please leave a note in the comments section below describing your experience.

Jul 14

Microsoft, Adobe Push Critical Fixes

If you use Microsoft products or Adobe Flash Player, please take a moment to read this post and update your software. Adobe today issued a critical update that plugs at least three security holes in the program. Separately, Microsoft released six security updates that address 29 vulnerabilities in Windows and Internet Explorer.

brokenwindowsMost of the bugs that Microsoft addressed with today’s updates (24 of the 29 flaws) are fixed in a single patch for the company’s Internet Explorer browser. According to Microsoft, one of those 24 flaws (a weakness in the way IE checks Extended Validation SSL certificates) was already publicly disclosed prior to today’s bulletins.

The other critical patch fixes a security problem with the way that Windows handles files meant to be opened and edited by Windows Journal, a note-taking application built in to more recent versions of the operating system (including Windows Vista, 7 and 8).

More details on the rest of the updates that Microsoft released today can be found at Microsoft’s Technet blog, Qualys’s site, and the SANS Internet Storm Center.

Adobe’s Flash Player update brings Flash to version on Windows, Mac and Linux systems. Adobe said it is not aware of exploits in the wild for any of the vulnerabilities fixed in this release.

To see which version of Flash you have installed, check this link. IE10/IE11 on Windows 8.x and Chrome should auto-update their versions of Flash, although my installation of Chrome says it is up-to-date and yet is still running v.

brokenflash-aFlash has a built-in auto-updater, but you might wait days or weeks for it to prompt you to update, regardless of its settings. 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 may need to apply this patch twice, once with IE and again using the alternative browser (Firefox, Opera, e.g.). 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 v. for Windows, Mac, and Android.