Category Archives: Internet Explorer

Flash 25.0.0.171

Adobe’s software updates for April include Flash 25.0.0.171, which fixes seven security issues in previous versions. If Flash is enabled in your web browser, you should visit the official Flash About page to check its version and update if it’s not current.

As usual, Chrome will update itself with the latest Flash, and Internet Explorer and Edge get their new Flash via Windows Update.

Patch Tuesday for May 2017

Well, I was right. The announcement for May’s Patch Tuesday has almost exactly the same wording as last month’s. That’s because neither contains any useful information. No, it’s back to the new Security Update Guide, at least if you want to know what Microsoft wants to do to your computer this month.

According to my analysis of this month’s update information in the SUG, there are fifty distinct bulletins, affecting Flash, Internet Explorer, Edge, .NET, Office, and Windows. A total of fifty-six vulnerabilities are addressed. Fifteen of the vulnerabilities are categorized as Critical.

Today Microsoft also issued three advisories:

New Java version: 8 Update 131

Earlier this week Oracle posted its quarterly Critical Patch Advisory for April 2017. Most of the Oracle software affected by these updates is likely only of interest to system administrators and developers, but buried in the advisory is a list of eight security vulnerabilities in Java 8 Update 121. Although it’s not mentioned in the advisory, those Java vulnerabilities are addressed in a new version of Java: 8 Update 131.

Anyone who uses a web browser with a Java plugin enabled should install Java 8 Update 131 as soon as possible. These days, Firefox, Chrome, and other Chrome-similar browsers like Vivaldi don’t support Java at all, so that leaves Internet Explorer. You can check whether Java is enabled in Internet Explorer by pointing IE to the official Java version test page.

Even if you don’t use a browser with Java enabled, you may have a version of Java installed on your computer, in which case you should consider updating it. You can find out whether Java is installed by looking for the Java applet in the Windows Control Panel. If it’s there, Java is installed; go to the Update tab and click Update now to install the new version.

Oracle sued by the FTC

If you visit the main Java page, you may notice a large all-caps message at the very top of the page: IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING THE SECURITY OF JAVA SE. The message links to a page that discusses an ongoing lawsuit:

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has sued us for making allegedly deceptive security claims about Java SE. To settle the lawsuit, we agreed to contact you with instructions on how to protect the personal information on your computer by deleting older versions of Java SE from your computer.

This is a good reminder that Java installers tend to leave old versions and related junk on Windows computers, and that you should always check for and remove old versions of Java after you install a new version. Visit the Java uninstall page and the Java uninstall help page to get started.

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.

Update 2017May05: One of the updates is a new version of Silverlight (5.1.50906.0) that addresses a single security issue.

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.

Patch Tuesday for January 2017

Another Patch Tuesday rolls around, bringing updates for Internet Explorer, Edge, Windows, and Office from Microsoft, and new versions of Flash and Reader from Adobe.

According to the Microsoft’s January 2017 bulletin summary,

“There are no security fixes or quality improvements for Windows 8.1 … on Update Tuesday for January 2017. As such, there is no Security Only Quality Update or Security Monthly Quality Rollup release for [Windows 8.1] this month.”

And in fact there are only four bulletins (with associated updates), addressing vulnerabilities in Windows, Edge, Office, and the Flash player built into Edge and Internet Explorer 11. Not including Flash, these updates address three security vulnerabilities.

Adobe’s contributions this month start with Flash 24.0.0.194, which addresses thirteen vulnerabilities in previous versions, adds some new features that are not particularly interesting, and improves support for high resolution displays in Firefox on Windows: Flash content will now scale properly in that context. As usual, Flash updates for Edge and Internet Explorer are handled by Microsoft, and Google Chrome will update itself automatically.

New versions of Adobe Reader address twenty-nine vulnerabilities. Reader XI is up to version 11.0.19, while its confusingly-named sister products Acrobat Reader DC (Continuous) and Acrobat Reader DC (Classic) are at versions 15.023.20053 and 15.006.30279, respectively.

So it’s an enjoyably light month. Visit Windows Update, update Adobe Reader, and if you use a web browser with Flash enabled, make sure to update that as well.

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.