The change log for Chrome 56.0.2924.87 lists thirty-eight changes in the new version. Of those, only about half involve actual changes to the browser. None of the changes appear to be particularly noteworthy, and none are related to security.
Chrome version 56.0.2924.76 includes fixes for fifty-one security vulnerabilities. But wait, that’s not all. If you want to see what happens when your web browser loads a really big web page, navigate to the change log for Chrome 56.0.2924.76. It’s a behemoth, documenting over ten thousand separate changes.
One change in particular deserves mention: starting with this version, Chrome will show ‘Secure’ at the left end of the address bar if a site is encrypted. When Chrome navigates to a web page that isn’t encrypted, but does include a password prompt, it will show ‘Not Secure’ in the address bar.
Chrome seems to update itself reliably, soon after a new version is released. Still, given the number of security fixes in this release, it’s not a bad idea to check.
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.
A new version of Chrome fixes at least thirty-six security issues in the browser. Aside from listing the vulnerabilities addressed, the release announcement says only that Chrome 55.0.2883.75 “contains a number of fixes and improvements”. You’ll have to read the change log to figure out what else is different. Sadly, the full change log is another one of those browser-killing monstrosities, with almost 10,000 changes listed. Don’t click that link if you have an older computer.
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:
SHA-1 deprecation announcements
(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.
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.
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.
If you use Google search (and really, who doesn’t?), you’ve probably noticed the big warnings that appear when you try to click on some search results. That’s Google Safe Browsing (GSB), protecting you from a malicious web site.
GSB flags sites that fail to comply with Google’s Malware, Unwanted Software, Phishing, and Social Engineering Policies.
To get rid of the warning, the owner of a site flagged by GSB must remove objectionable content and resubmit the site for verification in Google Search Console. Until recently, this process could be repeated indefinitely.
To counter repeat offenders, Google has changed the way GSB works. If a web site repeatedly fails to comply with Google’s Safe Browsing policies, it will be flagged as such, and the warning users see will appear for at least 30 days.
In the announcement for this change, Google points out that the new repeat offender policy will not apply to sites that have been hacked (i.e. changed without the owner’s permission).
Chrome 54.0.2840.99 fixes about ten bugs, including four related to security. If you use Chrome, make sure it’s up to date: click the ‘three vertical dots’ menu button at the top right, then click Help > About to check. This will also trigger an update if it hasn’t happened already.
The full change log has additional details.
Google’s Threat Analysis Group recently discovered critical flaws in Flash and Windows that could allow an attacker to bypass Windows security mechanisms. Attacks based on these flaws have already been observed in the wild.
The flaw in Flash was fixed immediately by Oracle; hence the out-of-cycle Flash update on October 26. But Microsoft decided to delay the corresponding Windows fix until next Patch Tuesday (November 8), and is now rather annoyed with Google for reporting the vulnerability publicly. Google was following its own rules for vulnerability disclosure, but such rules differ widely between organizations. In any case, Microsoft would have been happier if Google had waited a bit longer before spilling the beans.