Category Archives: Internet Explorer

Patch Tuesday for January 2020; end of support for Windows 7

The first Patch Tuesday for 2020 arrives with the long-planned but still inconvenient end of meaningful support for Windows 7.

The venerable Windows 7 still runs on about a quarter of all PCs worldwide. Sticking with Windows 7 was — and continues to be — a conscious decision for many users, made because Windows 8 and 10 were problematic for a variety of reasons.

Microsoft killed support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014, but still released updates for that O/S on a couple of occasions when a security vulnerability was so severe that it seemed likely to cause massive problems if unpatched. Microsoft will probably do the same thing for Windows 7, but it’s not a good idea to rely on the goodwill of any large corporation.

So, if you’re running Windows 7, what should you do? You can upgrade to Windows 8.1, which will buy you some time, until its support ends on January 10, 2023. Or you can stop resisting and make the move to Windows 10. Many of the initial problems with — and objections to — Windows 10 have now been addressed, making it somewhat less unpalatable. Microsoft offers additional guidance on the Windows 7 support ended on January 14, 2020 page on the Microsoft support site.

Another sensible option would be to switch to Linux. There are now Linux distributions that feel a lot like Windows, which can ease the transition. The main problem is software. But even if the software you use has no Linux version, you can still run an older version of Windows in a virtual machine on your Linux computer. That’s not too helpful for high-end games, however.

Back to our regularly scheduled updates…

There are thirty-nine updates (and associated bulletins) from Microsoft this month, addressing fifty vulnerabilities in Windows, .NET, Internet Explorer, and Office. Eight of the updates are flagged with Critical severity.

Although there are other ways to obtain the updates, by far the simplest method is to use Windows Update, which is found in the Windows 10 settings, or the Control Panel in older versions.

Update 2020Jan15: One of the vulnerabilities addressed in yesterday’s updates was reported to Microsoft by the NSA. While there’s disagreement about the seriousness of the vulnerability, this is notable in that the NSA previously wasn’t interested in sharing its discovered vulnerabilities. Lack of NSA cooperation led to the WannaCry ransomware nightmare in 2017. Brian Krebs has more.

While it’s generally a good idea to cross your fingers and install all available Microsoft updates, or at least allow them to be installed automatically, some Windows 10 users have grown wary of updates, and configured Windows Updates to be delayed. The actual risk from this vulnerability is mostly for Windows Server 2016 computers that are exposed to the Internet, and Windows 10 computers normally used by people with administrator permissions.

Update 2020Jan17: There’s more useful information about the NSA-reported vulnerability from Ars Technica, and SANS. SANS has created a web page and download that you can use to test your computers for this vulnerability.

Patch Tuesday for December 2019

This month we’ve got a new version of Reader from Adobe, along with the usual heap of updates affecting Microsoft software.

Analysis of Microsoft’s Security Update Guide for December shows that there are thirty-two updates in all, affecting Internet Explorer 9 through 11; Office 365, 2013, 2016, and 2019; Visual Studio; Windows 7, 8.1, and 10; and Windows Server 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2019. Thirty-seven vulnerabilities (CVEs) are addressed, of which seven are flagged as having Critical severity.

The easiest way to install Microsoft updates is via the Windows Update Control Panel (prior to Windows 10) or Settings > Update & Security on Windows 10.

Adobe logoAdobe released updates for several of its software products on Tuesday, but the only one likely to be installed on your computers is the ubiquitous Acrobat Reader DC, Adobe’s free PDF file viewer.

A new version of Acrobat Reader DC, 2019.021.20058, addresses at least twenty-one vulnerabilities in previous versions.

Recent versions of Reader seem to keep themselves updated, but if you use Reader to view PDF files from dubious sources, you should definitely check whether your Reader is up to date. Do that by running it, then choosing Check for Updates... from the Help menu.

About CVEs

I usually refer to security bugs as vulnerabilities. There’s another term that I sometimes use (see above): CVE. That’s an abbreviation for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures. If you’d like to know more, there’s a helpful post about CVEs over on the SecurityTrails web site. Here’s a quote:

CVE was launched in 1999 by the MITRE Corporation, a nonprofit sponsored by the National Cyber Security Division, or NCSD. When a researcher or a company discovers a new vulnerability or an exposure, they add them to the CVE list so other organizations can leverage this data and protect their systems.

It’s a worthwhile read, even for non-technical folks.

Emergency fix for Internet Explorer

If you’ve ignored the almost continuous advice of IT experts over the last decade or so, and are still using Internet Explorer for web browsing, you should stop what you’re doing and install a new security update, just released by Microsoft.

The update fixes a critical vulnerability (CVE-2019-1367) in IE 9, 10, and 11 that could allow a remote attacker to execute code on your computer, if they are able to trick you into visiting a specially-crafted web page.

Even if you don’t actively use IE, if it’s installed on your Windows computer (and it almost always is), you may run it accidentally, or it may become the default web browser because of another Microsoft update. In other words, everyone running Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 needs to install the fix, which exists in several different versions, each for a specific combination of Windows version and IE version (as outlined in Microsoft’s related security bulletin).

For example, on my main Windows computer, on which I run 64-bit Windows 8.1 and IE 11, the relevant update is designated 4522007.

These updates are not available via Windows Update. To install the update for your computer, follow the appropriate link in the security bulletin. Eventually you’ll end up at the Microsoft Update Catalog. Locate the update you want, then click the Download button to begin.

Patch Tuesday for September 2019

It’s another Patch Tuesday, and this month we have the usual pile from Microsoft, along with a new version of Flash.

Analysis of the summary spreadsheet — helpfully provided by Microsoft on the Security Update Guide site — shows that there are forty-nine updates, addressing eighty vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, .NET, Edge and Office. Seventeen of the vulnerabilities are critical.

Those of you running Windows 10 will get these updates automatically, unless you’ve explicitly configured Windows to delay updates. Everyone else should navigate to Windows Update in the Windows Control Panel or Windows Settings.

The new version of Flash is 32.0.0.255. It addresses two critical security bugs in earlier versions, both of which were discovered and reported by independent security researchers.

Anyone who still uses Flash, especially if it’s enabled in any web browser, should update Flash as soon as possible. Go to the Flash applet in the Windows Control Panel to check your version and install the new version.

Patch Tuesday for August 2019

It’s another day of updates, with the usual load from Microsoft, and a new version of Reader from Adobe.

Analysis of the monthly data dump from Microsoft’s Security Update Guide shows that this month we have fifty-two updates (with associated bulletins), addressing ninety-five vulnerabilities in Office applications, Windows, Internet Explorer 9 through 11, Edge, Exchange, SharePoint, and Windows Defender.

Twenty-nine of the vulnerabilities are characterised as having Critical severity, and all of the usual nightmarish potential impacts are represented, including Denial of Service, Elevation of Privilege, Information Disclosure, Remote Code Execution, Security Feature Bypass, Spoofing, and Tampering.

If you’re running Windows 10, there’s not much you can do to avoid these updates, although you can at least delay them. The risks associated with installing updates as soon as they become available are still arguably lower that the risks of delaying them as much as possible, or somehow avoiding them altogether.

In this particular case, however, you definitely should install the updates immediately. That’s because they include fixes for a set of dangerous vulnerabilities in RDS (Remote Desktop Services) in all versions of Windows, including Windows 10. Still not convinced? This month’s updates also include a fix for a terrible vulnerability in the Text Services Framework that’s existed in all versions of Windows since XP. The RDS and Text Services vulnerabilities were discovered very recently; no related exploits or attacks have been observed, but it’s a safe bet that malicious persons are working on exploits right now.

Anyway, as always, Windows Update is your friend. Your annoying, can’t-seem-to-shake-them kind of friend.

Adobe logoAdobe released updates for several of its products today, of which only Acrobat Reader presents a significant risk, because malicious hacker types enjoy embedding various kinds of nastiness in PDF files, pretty much every computer on Earth has Acrobat Reader installed, and most people with computers open PDF files without even thinking about the risk.

The latest Acrobat Reader (DC Continuous, which is the variant most likely to be installed on your computer) is version 2019.012.20036. It addresses at least seventy-six security vulnerabilities in previous versions. The release bulletin gives credit to a number of non-Adobe security researchers who discovered and reported some of the vulnerabilities.

You can check your version of Acrobat Reader by navigating its menu to Help > About Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Also on the Help menu is the handy Check for Updates option, which is probably the easiest way to update Reader.

Patch Tuesday for July 2019

Microsoft’s Security Update Guide provides the raw material for understanding each month’s pile of patches, but it’s not exactly easy to use in its current form. I use the almost-hidden Download link to the far right of the Security Updates heading about halfway down the page. The downloaded file is an Excel spreadsheet, which I find much easier to navigate that the SUG site. Your mileage may vary.

This month, Microsoft has issued sixty-seven updates and associated bulletins. The updates address seventy-eight vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, Edge, Office, Office Services and Web Apps, Azure DevOps, Open Source Software, .NET Framework, Azure, SQL Server, ASP.NET, Visual Studio, and Microsoft Exchange Server.

The vulnerabilities range from Moderate to Critical in severity, and they can lead to one or more of the usual horrors, including Denial of Service, Elevation of Privilege, Remote Code Execution, Information Disclosure, Spoofing, and Security Feature Bypass. Brrrrr.

Release Notes for July 2019 Security Updates

By far the easiest way to install all these updates is to let Windows Update do the work. Of course to some extent that means trusting Microsoft not to hose your computer, so there’s that. My current thinking is that I’m willing to trust Microsoft to do this, as long as they at least give me a way to roll back any faulty updates.

Adobe released some security updates to coincide with Microsoft’s patch cycle, but none for the ubiquitous Flash Player or Acrobat Reader.

Patch Tuesday for June 2019

It’s update time once again, and along with the updates from Microsoft and Adobe, I’m going to annoy you with yet another reminder that Only You Can Prevent Internet Worms. That sounds kind of gross, actually.

Analysis of the Security Update Guide spreadsheet, so thoughtfully provided by Microsoft each month, shows that this month there are thirty-three updates, addressing eighty-eight security vulnerabilities in Windows (7, 8.1, 10, and Server); Flash in Internet Explorer and Edge; Internet Explorer 9 through 11; Edge; and Office 2010, 2016, and 2019. At least twenty-one of the vulnerabilities are categorized as Critical.

If you missed last month’s update festivities, you may not be aware that there’s a very dangerous vulnerability (CVE-2019-0708) in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop feature in Windows XP, Windows 7, and Server 2008. Updates for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 computers are available in the usual way, via Windows Update. An update for Windows XP is also available, but you’ll have to download and install it manually, from the Microsoft Update Catalog.

I’m pestering you about this because the last time a vulnerability like this appeared, we got the global WannaCry worm mess. Patch those systems and prevent a similar worm from giving the world another major headache. Here’s Microsoft on the subject, as well as Ars Technica.

As usual, Adobe has released software updates to coincide with Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday, which makes things nice and tidy with Flash being integrated into IE and Edge. Flash 32.0.0.207 fixes a single security vulnerability.

There are a few ways to update Flash on Windows, but starting with the Flash Player Control Panel works for me. On the Flash CP’s Updates tab, you’ll find a Check Now button, which will take you to the Get Adobe Flash page. That will tell you which version you’re running. If you need an update, click the Player Download Center link on that page.

Patch Tuesday for May 2019

From Microsoft this month, we get forty-six updates, addressing seventy-nine distinct vulnerabilities in the usual gang of idiots, namely Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, Edge, .NET, Flash in Internet Explorer, and Visual Studio. Nineteen of the updates have been flagged with Critical severity. Head over to Microsoft’s Security Update Guide for more details.

Those of you running Windows 10 may actually be satisfied with its automatic updates, despite the problems. Either that or you’ve given up fighting Microsoft. And of course there are plenty of folks running Windows 7 and 8 with automatic updates enabled, in response to which I can only tip my hat and tell you that you’re braver than I. The rest of us will (or should) be making the trudge over to Windows Update today.

Microsoft dons a white hat

One of the updates made available by Microsoft today fixes a serious vulnerability (CVE-2019-0708) in older versions of Windows, including Windows 7, XP, and Server 2008. Despite the fact that official support for these versions has ended, Microsoft decided to make the world a slightly better place, taking the time to develop, test, and publish these updates. Which is good, because the hole being fixed is a bad one, in that it could provide a handy new conduit for malicious software worms to propagate… just like WannaCry did in 2017.

So, two things: first of all, thanks Microsoft! Second, if you run Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 computers, please check Windows Update and install the May 2019 monthly security rollup as described on this Microsoft page. For any computers running Windows XP, you’ll have to download the appropriate update from the Microsoft Update Catalog, as decribed on this Microsoft page.

More about Microsoft’s unusual move

Adobe

Adobe logoAdobe’s contribution this month consists of new versions of Flash and Acrobat Reader. Flash 32.0.0.192 addresses a single security vulnerability, while Acrobat Reader DC 2019.012.20034 addresses a whopping eighty-four vulnerabilities in earlier versions.

Reader will generally update itself, but you can make sure by navigating its menu to Help > Check for Updates.... The easiest way to update Flash is to look for it in the Windows Control Panel. Go to the Updates tab of the Flash control panel widget and click Check Now. This will take you indirectly to the download page for Flash. Make sure you opt out of any additional software offered for install on that page.

Patch Tuesday for March 2019

You know, it’s theoretically possible that we could get a Patch Tuesday with no updates to install. We’ve had months like that for Adobe products. Not for Microsoft, though, at least not in my memory.

Anyway… this month from Microsoft we have thirty-four updates, addressing seventy-five security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Edge, Flash in Microsoft browsers, Office, and Windows. At least that’s what my analysis shows. The source of this information, Microsoft’s Security Update Guide, is a complex beast.

Reminder: these updates are only for versions that are still supported. Windows XP is no longer supported, and Windows 7 won’t be for much longer. Versions of Office older than 2010 are no longer supported, and Office 2010 support will end later in 2019.

It was a busy month for Adobe, with updates to Flash, Reader, and Shockwave.

Flash 32.0.0.171 includes fixes for two vulnerabilities in earlier versions.

Acrobat Reader DC, the variant of Adobe’s Acrobat/Reader product line you probably use, is up to version 2019.010.20099. The new version addresses twenty-one vulnerabilities in earlier versions.

Shockwave Player 12.3.5.205 addresses seven security bugs in earlier versions. You’re slightly less likely to have this software installed on your computer, but it’s worth checking if you’re not sure.

There are links to download the new versions on all the release announcement pages linked to above.

Patch Tuesday for March, 2019

According to Microsoft’s Security Update Guide, March’s updates, twenty-eight in all, include fixes for at least sixty-five security vulnerabilities in .NET, Flash Player (in IE and Edge), Internet Explorer, Edge, Office, Visual Studio, and Windows.

Even if you have automatic updates enabled on Windows 7 and 8 computers, it’s a good idea to check for and install the new updates. If you’re running Windows 10, auto-updates can’t be disabled, but you can still check for updates, and get them sooner that way.

There are no updates for Flash or Reader from Adobe so far in March.