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Adobe, Apple, Microsoft & Mozilla Issue Critical Patches

Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla all released updates on Tuesday to fix critical security flaws in their products. Adobe issued a patch that corrects four vulnerabilities in Shockwave Player, while Redmond pushed updates to address four Windows flaws. Apple slipped out an update that mends at least 17 security holes in its version of Java, and Mozilla issued yet another major Firefox release, Firefox 8.

The only “critical” patch from Microsoft this month is a dangerous Windows flaw that could be triggered remotely to install malicious software just by sending the target system specially crafted packets of data. Microsoft says this vulnerability may be difficult to reliably exploit, but it should be patched immediately. Information on the other three flaws fixed this week is here. The fixes are available via Windows Updates for most supported versions of the operating system, including XP, Vista and Windows 7.

Adobe’s Shockwave update also fixes critical flaws, but users should check to see if they have this program installed before trying to update it. To test whether you have Shockwave installed, visit this page; if you see an animation, it’s time to update. If you see a prompt to install Shockwave, there is no need to install it. Mozilla Firefox users without Shockwave Player installed may still see “Shockwave Flash” listed in the “Plugins” directory of the browser; this merely indicates that the user has Adobe’s Flash Player installed.

The vulnerabilities fixed by this update exist in versions of Shockwave and earlier. The latest version, v., is available here.  As I noted earlier this year, I haven’t had Shockwave on my system for some time now and don’t seem to have missed it. I’m sure it has its uses, but to me Shockwave is just another Adobe program that requires constant care and feeding. What’s more, like Adobe’s Flash Player, Shockwave demands two separate installation procedures for IE and non-IE browsers.

Hat tip to the SANS Internet Storm Center for the heads up on the Java fix from Apple. This update, available via Software Update or Apple Downloads, essentially brings Snow Leopard and Lion up to date with the Oracle patches released last month in Java 6 Update 29 (Apple maintains its own version of Java).

If you use Mozilla Firefox or Thunderbird, you may have noticed that Mozilla is pushing out another major upgrade that includes critical fixes to these programs; both have now been updated to version 8. If you’re still running Firefox version 3.6.x, Mozilla has updated that to 3.6.24 (if anyone can help decipher Mozilla’s timeline for exactly how long it will continue to support this workhorse version of Firefox, please drop a line in the comments below). Perhaps I’m becoming a curmudgeon, but I’m growing weary of the incessant update prompts from Firefox. It seems that almost every time I start it up it’s asking to restart the browser or to remove plugins that no longer work with the latest version. I’ve been gradually transitioning more of my work over to Google Chrome, which seems faster and updates the browser and any installed plugins silently (and frequently patches oft-targeted plugins like Flash Player even before Adobe officially releases the update).

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