Analysis of Microsoft’s Security Update Guide shows that this month there are seventy updates for Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, .NET, Edge, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Visual Studio. A total of sixty security bugs are addressed, twenty of which are categorized as Critical.
Adobe, meanhwile, has released new versions of Flash and Acrobat Reader. Flash 184.108.40.206 includes fixes for five security issues, all of which are ranked as Important. Acrobat Reader 2018.011.20058 addresses two Critical security vulnerabilities.
Remember, folks: although updating software is perhaps not the most exciting thing you’ll do today, it’s entirely worthwhile, as it limits the damage that can be done by any stray malware that may find itself on your computer… from that attachment you opened without thinking, or that web site you visited when you accidentally clicked that link.
Vivaldi is based on the open source Chromium browser engine. When Chromium gets security updates, Vivaldi’s developers have to ‘backport’ those changes to Vivaldi, or leave Vivaldi users exposed to known security threats.
The Vivaldi developers do a good job of staying on top of this, and sometimes release a new version of Vivaldi in which the only changes are security fixes backported from Chromium. Vivaldi 1.15.1147.64 is the most recent example of this.
You can check your verison of Vivaldi by clicking the menu button at the top left of the browser, then selecting Help > About. If you’re not running the latest version, Vivaldi should offer to update itself.
The latest version of Chrome includes fixes for forty-two security vulnerabilities. It’s also the first version that will display Not Secure in the address bar for all non-encrypted web pages. When that indicator appears, traffic to and from the viewed page is not being encrypted.
Viewing a non-encrypted web page is not particularly risky, as long as no private information is being transmitted. That means user names, passwords, email addresses, credit card numbers, and so on. However, as discussed here previously, unencrypted sites open up a world of possibilities for intercepting and modifying web traffic.
The simplest way to update Chrome is also the best way to determine which version you’re running: click the three-vertical-dots icon at the top right, then select Help > About Google Chrome. If your browser isn’t already up to date, this will usually trigger an update.
A new version of Java (8 Update 181) addresses eight security vulnerabilities in earlier versions. The Release Highlights page for Java 8 provides additional details on changes in Update 181, most of which are likely only of interest to developers.
If you use Java, and in particular if you use a web browser that has Java enabled, you should install Java 8 Update 181 as soon as possible. Note that the only modern browser that still runs Java applications is Internet Explorer. The easiest way to update Java is to run the Java applet in the Windows Control Panel: on the Update tab, click the Update Now button.
Troy Hunt has put together a video that demonstrates various ways that traffic coming from an unencrypted web site can be dicked around with, for various nefarious purposes, using a technique called a Man In The Middle (MITM) attack.
You can usually tell if a web site is encrypted by looking at your web browser’s address bar. For example, URLs for this web site (boot13.com) should appear in the address bar with a lock, followed by https:// rather than the unencrypted http://. If you try to access any part of this site using http://, you’ll be redirected to the equivalent https:// address.
Although the video does get a bit technical, it’s worth watching all 24+ minutes. You should understand enough of it to see the danger.
Perhaps the most interesting of Troy’s observations is that encrypting a web site doesn’t really provide any direct benefit to the site’s owner. This is not about protecting your web site; it’s about protecting its visitors. In other words, encrypting your web site is an act of altruism.
After watching Troy’s video, I immediately started an evaluation of all my own web sites, as well as those of clients, to make sure that all traffic coming from them is encrypted. Most are already using HTTPS, but some don’t force the use of HTTPS.
Troy Hunt’s video
If you run a web site, you should realize by now that there’s no good reason to avoid turning on encryption. It’s also easier than ever, and — thanks to Let’s Encrypt — no longer has to cost anything. The HTTPS Is Easy video series is a good starting point if you’re not sure how to proceed.
In my experience, the SUG is much easier to digest in the form of a spreadsheet, so the first thing I do there is click the small Download link at the right edge of the page, to the right of the Security Updates heading. If you have Excel — or something compatible — installed, you should be able to open it directly.
Once the spreadsheet is loaded, I recommend enabling the Filter option. In Excel 2007, that setting is in the Sort & Filter section of the Data ribbon (toolbar). This makes every column heading a drop-down list, which allow you to select a particular product or platform, and hide everything else.
Analysis of this month’s updates from the SUG spreadsheet shows that there are sixty-two distinct updates, addressing fifty-three security vulnerabilities in Flash, Internet Explorer, SharePoint, Visual Studio, Edge, Office applications, .NET, and all supported versions of Windows. Seventeen of the updates are flagged as Critical.
Have you been getting a lot of scam phone calls lately? I sure have. On both the land line and my business cell phone. Some callers claim that I’m being sued by the government or that I’m under investigation. Others want me to think there’s something wrong with my computer and that they have the only fix.
I’m pretty good at spotting these scams, and for me, they’re sometimes entertaining, but usually just annoying. For some people, especially elderly folks with little technical knowledge, these calls can be a horrible trap.
The latest Firefox release features faster page load times and tab switching, improvements to search provider setup, an improved dark theme, better bookmark syncing, and at least eighteen security fixes.
Settings related to the home page and ‘new tab’ page are now in their own section on Firefox’s Options pages. You can access the new section directly using this URL: about:preferences#home.
A new version of Google’s web browser was announced on June 12. Chrome 67.0.3396.87 (change log) is a bug fix release; a single security vulnerability is addressed. Check your version by navigating Chrome’s menu to Help > About Google Chrome.
According to the release notes, this month’s updates affect Internet Explorer, Edge, Windows, Office, Office Services and Web Apps, Flash embedded in IE and Edge, and ChakraCore. Analysis of the information in the SUG reveals that there are forty updates, fixing fifty-one separate vulnerabilities. Eleven of the vulnerabilties are flagged as Critical.
News for me, stuff that matters… to me. Windows, Linux, security, tools & miscellany.