Category Archives: Security

aka infosec

Java 8u221 – ten security fixes

If you still use Java, and particularly if Java is enabled in Internet Explorer, it’s important to keep it up to date. Security vulnerabilities in Java are still a somewhat popular target for malicious hackers and malware purveyors.

If you’re not sure whether Java is even installed on your computer, look for a Java entry in the Windows Control Panel. If you see one, Java is installed. The Java Control Panel has an Update tab that allows you to check for pending updates and install the latest version.

You can check whether Java is enabled in Internet Explorer by using that browser to visit Oracle’s Verify Java Version page.

This is what you should see on the Verify Java Version page if you are using IE and Java is up to date.

Oracle issues quarterly updates for a wide range of software products, and that includes Java. The July 2019 update describes ten security vulnerabilities that are addressed in the latest version of Java, 8 update 221.

Chrome 75.0.3770.142

Two security fixes for Chrome were released earlier this week in the form of Chrome version 75.0.3770.142.

The change log for Chrome 75.0.3770.142 lists one hundred and twenty-eight changes in all, but other than the two fixes for security vulnerabilities, none of them are particularly interesting.

By default, Chrome will update itself in the days following a new release. You can encourage it by navigating its ‘three dot’ menu to Help > About Google Chrome, where an option to update will be shown if one is available.

Firefox 68.0

There are at least twenty-one fixes for security issues in the latest Firefox, version 68.0. If Firefox is your browser of choice, and it prompts you to install this update, you should let it proceed. If Firefox’s automatic version checking is disabled, you can always wake it up by navigating the ‘hamburger’ menu to Help > About Mozilla Firefox.

Other changes in Firefox 68.0 include the spread of “Dark mode in reader view” into the surrounding browser interface. Blecch. Well, it’s not for me, anyway.

Extension management, via the about:addons page, is improved in the new Firefox. It’s now easier to report security and performance issues with extensions and themes. It’s also easier to get detailed information about extensions. And there’s a new section that provides extension recommendations.

The release notes page for Firefox 68.0 has more information.

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.

Firefox 67.0.3 and 67.0.4

Over the last few days, two new versions of Firefox were released, each addressing a single security vulnerability.

Firefox 67.0.3 fixes a critical flaw in the way Javascript objects are handled that can allow exploitable crashes. Targeted attacks in the wild are actively abusing this flaw.

Firefox 67.0.4‘s fix is for an as yet unexploited flaw that could potentially result in executing arbitrary code on the user’s computer.

Both vulnerabilities were reported to Mozilla by non-Mozilla security researchers.

You can wait for Firefox to update itself, or nudge it along by visiting Help > About Mozilla Firefox in its menu, found by clicking the hamburger button (hamburger) button in the toolbar.

Chrome 75.0.3770.90

The latest Chrome release features a fix for one security vulnerability. There are about forty-five actual changes listed in the full change log, none of which are particularly noteworthy.

There’s not much of interest in the release announcement for Chrome 75.0.3770.90, although it does point out that the vulnerability was discovered and reported by a non-Google researcher.

Unless you’ve gone to the trouble of disabling Google’s persistent automatic update processes, your installation of Chrome will likely update itself over the next few days.

You can check your version and trigger any pending updates by navigating Chrome’s menu (the ‘three-vertical-dots’ button at the top right) to Help > About Google Chrome.

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.

Chrome 75.0.3770.80

A new version of Chrome includes fixes for forty-two security vulnerabilities.

The full log for Chrome 75.0.3770.80 lists over fourteen thousand changes, so good luck reading all that.

Google did not highlight any of the changes in the announcement for Chrome 75.0.3770.80, which only provides this somewhat cryptic message: “Watch out for upcoming Chrome and Chromium blog posts about new features and big efforts delivered in 75.”

Check your Chrome version by navigating its ‘three vertical dots’ menu icon (at the top right) to Help > About Google Chrome. If an update is available, it will be offered to you.