Category Archives: Patches and updates

Java 8 Update 171 (8u171)

The only major browser that still officially supports Java is Internet Explorer, although there are workarounds for some of the other browsers. For example, you can switch to Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release), but even that support is likely to disappear before long. Google Chrome, and other browsers that use the same engine, can only be made to show Java content by installing an extension that runs Internet Explorer in a tab.

Java’s impact on security is diminishing, but it’s still being used on older systems where upgrading to newer O/S versions is not possible. There are still a lot of Windows XP systems out there, and most of them are either running older versions of Internet Explorer or Firefox ESR.

If you’re still using Java, you should install the latest version, Java 8 Update 171 (8u171), as soon as possible. The easiest way to check which version you’re running and install any available updates is to visit Oracle’s ‘Verify Java’ page. You’ll need to do that with a Java-enabled browser. Another option is to visit the third-party Java Tester site. Again, this site won’t work unless Java is enabled.

Java 8 Update 171 includes fixes for fourteen security vulnerabilities. Other changes are documented in the Java 8 release notes and the Java 8u171 bug fixes page.

Chrome 66.0.3359.117 released

The latest version of Google Chrome includes sixty-two security fixes, and a limited trial of a new feature called Site Isolation that should help to reduce the risk from Spectre-related vulnerabilities.

The change log for Chrome 66.0.3359.117 is another whopper, listing over ten thousand changes in total.

Check your version of Chrome by clicking the three-vertical-dots menu button at the top right, and selecting Help > About Google Chrome. Doing that will usually trigger an update if one is pending.

Patch Tuesday for April 2018

Microsoft’s contribution to our monthly headache starts with a post on the TechNet MSRC blog: April 2018 security update release. This brief page consists of the same boilerplate we get every month, and provides no details at all. We’re informed that “information about this month’s security updates can be found in the Security Update Guide” but there isn’t even a link to the SUG.

Analysis of the SUG for this month’s Microsoft updates shows that there are sixty updates, addressing sixty-eight vulnerabilities in Flash, Excel, Word, and other Office components, Internet Explorer, Edge, Windows, and Defender. Twenty-three of the vulnerabilities are flagged as Critical.

If your Windows computer is not configured for automatic updates, you’ll need to use Windows Update in the Control Panel to install them.


Adobe’s offering for this month’s patching fun is a new version of Flash Player: 29.0.0.140 (APSB18-08). Six security vulnerabilities — three flagged as Critical — are fixed in the new version.

If you’re using a web browser with Flash enabled, you should install Flash 29.0.0.140 as soon as possible. The embedded Flash used in Internet Explorer 11 and Edge on newer versions of Windows will get the new version via Windows Update. Chrome’s embedded Flash will be updated via Chrome’s automatic update system. To update the desktop version of Flash, visit the About Flash page.

Opera 52 released

The latest version of Opera, which is still a useful alternative to Firefox and Chrome, sports an improved (and faster) ad blocker.

The new ad blocker now provides protection against cryptojacking, where a web site will attempt to use your browser (and your computer) for mining cryptocurrency.

With Opera 52, you can now select multiple tabs, and perform various operations on all of the selected tabs, including copying the related URLs to the clipboard with a single command.

The release notes and change log for Opera 52 provide additional details.

Firefox 59 released

Firefox 59 features performance and user interface improvements, as well as numerous other minor changes. At least eighteen security issues are fixed in the new version.

Particularly welcome are new Privacy and Security settings (Menu > Options > Privacy & Security) that will stop websites from asking to send notifications.

Note: Windows 7 users may have trouble using certain Windows accessibility features, such as the on-screen keyboard, when Firefox 59 is installed. Mozilla is working on a fix for this issue.

Update: Firefox 59.0.1 is also now available. It fixes a single security bug.

Flash 29.0.0.113

Adobe logoA new version of Flash, released on March 13 by Adobe, fixes two security vulnerabilities as well as a few other bugs.

If you use a browser with Flash enabled, you should update it as soon as possible. Most browsers no longer play Flash content automatically, or at least have options to make Flash content play only when explicitly allowed. Still, it’s best to be up to date if you use Flash at all.

Internet Explorer and Edge will get their Flash updates via Windows Update, and Google Chrome will update itself on its own mysterious schedule. You can force the issue by visiting the main Flash download page, or the About Flash page, which will prompt you to update if you’re not running the latest version. Don’t forget to disable installation of any additional software, including McAfee security products.

You can find more details in the release announcement, release notes, and the associated security bulletin.

Microsoft updates for March

I count forty-seven separate bulletins in this month’s batch of updates, which means there are roughly that same number of updates. Over seventy security vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, Edge, Office, and .NET are addressed in the updates. There’s a Flash update in there as well, for Edge and recent versions of Internet Explorer.

This month we also get more fixes for Spectre and Meltdown, including firmware updates for somewhat older processors (Skylake, Kaby Lake, and Coffee Lake). There’s still not much available for processors that are more than a few years old.

While Microsoft continues to push people to enable automatic updates, the more cautious among us (including myself) prefer to control what is updated and when. Windows 10 users still have effectively no control over Windows updates.

You can extract additional details for this month’s updates from Microsoft’s Security Update Guide.