Category Archives: Edge

Windows 10 Creators Update

The next big update for Windows 10 was released on April 11, Patch Tuesday. Opinions differ as to the significance of the update: while Microsoft touts it as something amazing, others see it as something less than a major update.

Still, the new version contains incremental improvements, and a few changes that are likely to be useful. Interesting, but not particularly useful changes include Paint 3D, mixed reality support, and 4K gaming support. Visuals, Ink, Surface Dial, Bluetooth, notifications, background execution, Cortana, Skype, Windows Defender, Windows Store and app download all get modest improvements.

Enhancements to Desktop Bridge, which allows traditional desktop apps to be migrated to the new Windows UI, will make a lot of lives easier. The Windows Subsystem for Linux is also expanded with new functionality. The Edge browser gets some new features that are likely to be helpful for people who actually use Edge. A new Game Mode may make Windows 10 gaming slightly more palatable. Beam game streaming is now built into Windows 10. A new feature called Night Light allows Windows 10 to reduce blue light from a display at specific times.

Windows 10’s privacy settings are overhauled in the new version, including a new privacy dashboard, although the overall result seems to be less control rather than more. The window of time during which Windows 10 can update itself has been widened slightly, but there’s still no way to avoid Microsoft’s remote fiddling unless you’re using an Enterprise version.

All in all, there’s nothing particularly objectionable about this update, and there are enough improvements to make it worthwhile. Which is good, because you’ll get it whether you want it or not. Whenever Microsoft wants you to get it.

More information from Microsoft

Patch Tuesday for April 2017

As of this month, Microsoft is no longer publishing security bulletins. What we get instead is the Security Update Guide, an online database of Microsoft updates. Instead of a nice series of bulletins in my RSS reader, I get a single notification that contains almost nothing of use, aside from a link to the Security Update Guide. It also recommends enabling auto updates. Suffice to say that they won’t need to change the wording next month.

Security Update Guide

I’m sure it’s possible to create an online update database that works, but the Security Update Guide doesn’t qualify. In the hour I’ve spent so far trying to use it, what I usually see is an empty list. On the occasions when updates were shown, attempting to navigate from there also produced blank lists. Presumably this is happening because the site is overwhelmed, this being Patch Tuesday, but it’s also an excellent demonstration of why simpler systems are often better.

But even assuming that the current (as of 2017Apr11 13:00 PST) issues are transitory, information about the current set of updates that I did manage to see (in brief glimpses) was scattered among hundreds of items in the list. There is an always-visible link to a release notes page for the month’s updates, but sadly that page is far less useful than the summary bulletins previously provided. Aside from a few notes about special cases, all we get is this:

The April security release consists of security updates for the following software:
Internet Explorer
Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Office and Microsoft Office Services and Web Apps
Visual Studio for Mac
.NET Framework
Silverlight
Adobe Flash Player

For the period between March’s Patch Tuesday and today, the guide shows 233 total items. To learn more, you have only one obvious option: go through every item in the list, looking for unique Knowledge Base article numbers in the More Info column, and clicking them to see the related KB article. I think I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader. If Microsoft improves the guide sufficiently, I’ll go back to providing a more detailed breakdown of the monthly updates.

Update 2017Apr12: On Microsoft’s Security Update Guide, you’ll find a small Download link at the top right of the update list. You can use this to open the update list in Excel, which is a lot easier than using the flaky web-based tool. using this method, I was able to count the number of unique updates, and it looks like there are forty-two, with forty-four vulnerabilities addressed. CERT’s count is sixty-one.

Update 2017Apr18: Ars Technica wonders if anyone likes the new Security Update Guide.

Adobe’s Contribution

As is now almost traditional, Adobe published their own set of updates today. This month we get updates for Flash (seven issues addressed) and Acrobat/Reader (47 issues addressed).

If you still use a web browser with a Flash plugin, you should update it as soon as possible. Internet Explorer and Edge will of course get their own Flash updates via Microsoft Update, while Chrome’s built-in Flash will be updated automatically on most computers.

Patch Tuesday updates from Microsoft and Adobe

It looks like Microsoft fixed the technical issues that led to February’s updates being postponed until March. Today they announced eighteen updates that address security issues in Windows, Internet Explorer, Edge, Office, Silverlight, as well as Windows Server software, including Exchange.

Critical vulnerabilities for which updates were expected in February, including an SMB flaw in Windows (CVE-2017-0016), and two others that were disclosed by Google’s Project Zero that affect the Windows GDI library (CVE-2017-0038), and Internet Explorer and Edge (CVE-2017-0037), finally get fixes today.

A total of one hundred and forty vulnerabilities are addressed by today’s updates from Microsoft. That’s higher than usual, but of course this is two months’ worth of updates.

Adobe’s contribution to the patching fun this month is new versions of Flash and Shockwave. Flash 25.0.0.127 includes fixes for seven vulnerabilities in earlier versions, while Shockwave 12.2.8.198 resolves a single security issue in versions 12.2.7.197 and earlier.

Chrome will update itself with the new version of Flash in the next day or so, but you can usually trigger the update process by navigating to its About page. Flash updates for Internet Explorer and Edge are included in this month’s updates from Microsoft.

If you’re still using a web browser with a Flash plugin, you should make sure it’s up to date as soon as possible.

Update 2017Mar17: Ars Technica points out — quite rightly — that Microsoft still owes us all an explanation for why the February updates were cancelled. My favourite quote from the Ars article: “when marketers drive communications concerning a reported zero-day exploit, customers lose.” I’d argue that when marketing folk are the only ones talking about technical issues of any kind, we should all be very worried.

Microsoft releases update for Flash

Normally, Microsoft releases updates for Flash in Edge and Internet Explorer along with everything else on the second Tuesday of each month.

This month, something went wrong with the Windows Update system, and Microsoft pushed all the February updates to March, including an expected fix for a serious SMS flaw.

Someone at Microsoft apparently realized that this decision would leave some Flash users (those using Flash in Edge and Internet Explorer) vulnerable for an extra month. Flash vulnerabilities are targeted aggressively by malicious hackers, so this is obviously a bad thing. As a result, Microsoft has released a Flash update, one week later than originally planned.

Anyone who uses Flash in Internet Explorer or Edge should visit Windows Update and install the Flash update as soon as possible.

So we do get a Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for February 2017 after all, but it only includes a single bulletin.

Flash update fixes 13 vulnerabilities

A new version of Flash, released yesterday, addresses at least thirteen vulnerabilities in previous versions.

According to the security bulletin for Flash 24.0.0.221, the new version fixes “critical vulnerabilities that could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.”

The release notes for Flash 24.0.0.221 describe some new features that are likely only of interest to developers.

As usual, Internet Explorer and Edge will get new versions of their embedded Flash via Windows Update, while Chrome’s embedded Flash will be updated automatically.

Anyone who still uses a web browser with Flash enabled should update it as soon as possible.

Microsoft is losing all of its browser market share to Google

If you used Windows in the 90’s, you probably remember the Browser War between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator. That war culminated in an antitrust case against Microsoft, in which the plaintiff (the USA) claimed that Microsoft’s bundling of IE with Windows was anti-competitive.

Regardless of whether you believe Microsoft acted fairly, Internet Explorer’s market share increased steadily during the period from 1995 to 2001, getting close to 100% at its high water mark. Microsoft never charged anything for its browser, but controlling the window through which most of the world viewed the web clearly provided a huge advantage to the company.

Now, all that ‘hard won’ market share is being given away by Microsoft, mostly to Google’s Chrome. Internet Explorer’s share plummeted from 40% to 20% in 2016, and there’s no bottom in sight.

Why is this happening?

Microsoft has abandoned Internet Explorer, switching its browser development efforts to Edge, which only runs in Windows 10. Only the most recent versions of IE are still supported, and only on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. And that support is limited to fixing security issues and other bugs. You won’t see any more new features in IE.

Clearly, Microsoft thought everyone would upgrade to Windows 10, especially given the free upgrade offer, and the company’s aggressive upgrade tactics. But that appears to have backfired; Windows 10’s growth has been less than stellar, and even though Edge is arguably a better browser than IE, Windows 10 users are mostly choosing other browsers.

Microsoft may soon own as little as 5% of the total browser market, thanks to Edge’s lackluster uptake. Edge started 2016 with a market share of about 4%, and ended it with about 5%.

I think this qualifies as a major strategic blunder on the part of Microsoft.

Numbers are courtesy of NetMarketShare.

Article on Ars Technica.

Patch Tuesday for December 2016

For 2016’s final set of updates, Microsoft has issued twelve bulletins, with associated patches, affecting the usual software, namely Windows, Internet Explorer, Edge, Office, and the .NET Framework. Forty-seven vulnerabilities in all are addressed by these updates.

Adobe issued updates for several of its products today, but the only one likely to be of interest to most people is, of course, Flash. And I mean ‘interest’ in the sense of “I am very interested in not having my computer infected with malware because I visited a malicious web site while running an out-of-date version of Flash.” The new version of Flash on all platforms is 24.0.0.186. It addresses seventeen vulnerabilities in the still-ubiquitous player. As usual, Flash in Internet Explorer and Chrome will be updated automatically.

SHA-1 deprecation coming soon

SHA-1 (Secure Hash Algorithm 1) is still used by some web sites to encrypt their traffic. Starting in early 2017, most web browsers will start displaying scary-looking warnings when anyone tries to visit sites using SHA-1.

Like this one in Edge:

After Feb 14, 2017, Microsoft Edge will show this warning when it detects SHA-1 encryption
After Feb 14, 2017, Microsoft Edge will show this warning when it detects SHA-1 encryption

SHA-1 deprecation announcements

Microsoft

(From a post on the Microsoft Edge blog.)

Starting on February 14th, 2017, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11 will prevent sites that are protected with a SHA-1 certificate from loading and will display an invalid certificate warning. Though we strongly discourage it, users will have the option to ignore the error and continue to the website.

Mozilla

From a post on the Mozilla security blog.

In early 2017, Firefox will show an overridable “Untrusted Connection” error whenever a SHA-1 certificate is encountered that chains up to a root certificate included in Mozilla’s CA Certificate Program. SHA-1 certificates that chain up to a manually-imported root certificate, as specified by the user, will continue to be supported by default; this will continue allowing certain enterprise root use cases, though we strongly encourage everyone to migrate away from SHA-1 as quickly as possible.

Google

From a post on the Google security blog.

We are planning to remove support for SHA-1 certificates in Chrome 56, which will be released to the stable channel around the end of January 2017. The removal will follow the Chrome release process, moving from Dev to Beta to Stable; there won’t be a date-based change in behaviour.

Patch Tuesday for November 2016

It’s Patch Tuesday, albeit a slightly more interesting one than usual. Patches we have, from both Microsoft and Adobe. More about that later.

Microsoft wants to simplify the way security update information is presented to the public. To that end, they’ve created a new ‘starting page’ of sorts, called the Security Updates Guide. The idea is that anyone should be able to find the information they need by starting here. Most of the links on the new page actually go to existing TechNet pages. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Among the updates from Microsoft this month is a fix for the Windows vulnerability recently reported by Google. You may recall that Microsoft was rather annoyed with Google for making the vulnerability public according to their own rules (sooner than Microsoft wanted). Microsoft did credit Neel Mehta and Billy Leonard of Google’s Threat Analysis Group for their assistance.

There are fourteen bulletins from Microsoft this month. The associated updates address seventy-five vulnerabilities in Windows, Edge, Office, and Internet Explorer.

Adobe’s monthly contribution to the festivities is a new version of Flash, 23.0.0.207. A release announcement provides an overview of the changes, while the associated security bulletin provides some background about the nine vulnerabilities addressed.

Flash 23.0.0.205

Normally Adobe releases Flash updates on Patch Tuesday, but when there’s a critical security vulnerability they will release an ‘out of cycle’ fix. That’s what happened with Flash 23.0.0.205, which was released on October 26 to address a single vulnerability: CVE-2016-7855 (details pending).

Anyone who uses Flash in a web browser should update Flash as soon as possible. If you’re not sure whether you’re running the latest Flash, go to the About Flash page on the Adobe web site.

As always, Internet Explorer and Edge will get updates to their embedded Flash via Windows Update (bulletin MS16-128), and Chrome will update itself automatically. Still, it’s a good idea to make sure by visiting the About Flash page.