Google Chrome to abandon older versions of Windows and Mac OS X April 2016

Google Chrome icon

Back in November of 2015, Google made an unwelcome announcement which was some very bad news for older Windows and older Mac OS X users.

On their Google Chrome Blog posting at that time, Google announced that it will stop providing updates to Google Chrome for the following Windows and Mac OS X versions;

  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
  • Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion)
  • Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)

NOTE: Linux 32-bit Distribution users see the end of this article for your sad news too, but most of you are already aware of this since it happens this month!

This does not mean Google Chrome will stop working in these OS versions — which would almost be better security wise. Instead, Google has decided to simply stop providing updates to the installed versions of Google Chrome for these OS versions.

This is very bad news since Google Chrome has Flash built in (which is updated as needed with Google Chrome). These older versions of Windows and Mac OS X will be doubly vulnerable. Over the years, these users have gotten used to not having to update Flash separately like you need to do in other browsers like Firefox, Safari, Opera, earlier versions of Internet Explorer, Pale Moon, etc.
Because Flash is built in to Google Chrome, these abandoned users will not be getting the Flash updates either.

This will make these older versions of non updated Google Chrome extremely vulnerable to browser attacks from infected websites. Malware purveyors will quickly begin to adjust their attacks (if they have not already in anticipation of this change) to look for these older vulnerable systems using outdated/vulnerable versions of Google Chrome as new attack vectors for these abandoned Windows and Mac users.

Those thinking that being a Mac user will make you impervious to attack, think again. Browser attacks are one thing that every operating system including Windows, Macs and Linux have been subject to these days. Sure Windows users get hit more often but that is because they are the biggest user base and they have the largest target on their back, but Mac users and Linux users can still get hit at times if they have outdated operating systems, Flash, Java, etc. Even Android has been hit by a banking trojan these days – reported March 9, 2016 by ESET’s We Live Security Blog.

With other browsers, you could simply remove Flash from the system and be done with it if you were concerned about it and didn’t mind losing the ability to see YouTube videos and other Flash supported content on other websites. Although, with HTML5 support coming right along, that could be moot.

Some might be quick to blame Adobe Flash, but apparently this is not the case as Adobe is quick to point out in at least two places that they support these OSes:

Plus other browsers such as Firefox clearly still support these OSes and Flash on these OSes. However, they will have to update their supported browsers to NOT include Google Chrome after April 2016 unless Google rethinks all this for at least a couple of the newer, of the older, OS versions. 😉

If Google does not give a reprieve/stay of execution, once Adobe makes their final update to Adobe Flash in April 2016 and Google updates Google Chrome the final time for these OS version users that includes that last Flash version, it will apparently be the last Google Chrome AND thereby Flash update that these Google abandoned OSes will see Google based on the Google Chrome blog article posted November 2015.

Google has been very quiet on the subject since that date so no reprieve or stay of execution even for the newer OS versions to be abandoned; Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

It seems quite harsh to drop support for these two OS versions (Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)) since Google supported the earlier noted OS versions like Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) for so many years! But there it is.

If you are using one of these older OS versions of Windows or Mac OS X, read it and weep for the loss of a great browser like Google Chrome, and make be wise to make the move to Mozilla Firefox newest version to-date 44.0.2 (STILL supports Mac OS X 10.6 Mountain Lion), or Opera (however NO support for Mac OS X 10.6 Mountain Lion, but does support Lion and Mountain Lion), which have not, so far, abandoned these users. But they are not the only players still in the game…

There is also another browser project that has gained a lot of popularity among Windows users — the Pale Moon browser. There are versions for Windows: Pale Moon, Pale Moon 64, Portable. There are also versions for:  Atom/XP, Linux and Android on the Download tab on the website.

There is also a Mac OS X version of Pale Moon 26.1.1 Unofficial available as of February 2016. As noted on their forum page:

Important note:
The Mac OSX version of Pale Moon is still very much in development. Your assistance in bringing this build to fruition is greatly appreciated, but you can expect there to be bugs and problems for a while yet!
Any specific bugs you find that don’t have their own topic yet: please make a new topic; one bug per topic please to keep things organized.
Please also note that these builds are currently created by BitVapor and Moonchild will likely not be able to provide insight or assistance due to lack of Mac hardware and OS/build knowledge for Mac.

Windows XP Vista No Support Yellow Strip Popup Google Chrome

Windows XP Vista already shows No Support Yellow Info band in Google Chrome

Those using these older versions of Windows (See image to the right), and Mac are already getting an annoying yellow warning info band across the top of their Google Chrome browsers.It is advising them to move to a more modern operating system. Wise move on Google’s part and it also servers to show that they  do not appear to be backing down from their November 2015 announcement.

That means Google Chrome users will need to do something to address the issues by either upgrading to a more modern operating system where possible, getting a newer computer with a more modern operating system since all of these operating systems are older and most have been abandoned by their creators anyway except Vista which is coming next April 2017 (preferable security wise), or barring all that, changing to a supported browser, or using an extension to address the old version of Flash issue (see end of article posting).

If you move to another browser, it will be very important to keep Adobe Flash updated since only Google Chrome in Windows 7, 8.1 and Windows 10, or on Mac OS X: Mavericks, Yosemite and El Capitan! will include Flash updates automatically with browser updates after April 2016.
NOTE: In addition, in Windows 8.1, the latest versions of Internet Explorer (IE10, IE11), and of course the new Edge browser on Windows 10 include Flash built in and updated for you like Google Chrome does.

Older versions of Windows and Mac are not the only users to be abandoned/axed by Google Chrome in early 2016. ALL 32-bit Linux distribution versions are also being abandoned — this month — March 2016 as noted in BetaNews, Slash Dot, and PCWorld and other news outlets back in November and December 2015.

Even though many and maybe even most computers these days are 64-bit, there are still a lot of 32-bit computers and 32-bit operating systems in use around the world today so this may be a move forward for 64-bit, but it is also a sad day for all the 32-bit hardware/operating systems worldwide.

Of course, there are still several browsers like Firefox, Opera and Pale Moon available for Linux 32-bit computers —  just as there are for Windows and Mac users. There are also some alternative browsers based on Firefox available (Pale Moon noted earlier here is included), and distro-specific versions of Firefox like Iceweasel in Debian Linux, etc.)

For all users of Google Chrome, there are some Flash blocking or control Extension possibilities that can protect everyone, but particularly these older users from having Flash run all the time if they choose to continue to use Google Chrome:

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IE Zero-Day Vulnerability

Microsoft Security Advisory 2963983 – Vulnerability in Internet Explorer Could Allow Remote Code Execution – TechNet

General Information

Executive Summary

Microsoft is aware of limited, targeted attacks that attempt to exploit a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, and Internet Explorer 11.

The vulnerability is a remote code execution vulnerability. The vulnerability exists in the way that Internet Explorer accesses an object in memory that has been deleted or has not been properly allocated. The vulnerability may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer. An attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website.

On completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to protect our customers, which may include providing a solution through our monthly security update release process, or an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs.

We are actively working with partners in our Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) to provide information that they can use to provide broader protections to customers. For information about protections released by MAPP partners, see MAPP Partners with Updated Protections.

Microsoft continues to encourage customers to follow the guidance in the Microsoft Safety & Security Center of enabling a firewall, applying all software updates, and installing antimalware software.

Mitigating Factors:

  • By default, Internet Explorer on Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2 runs in a restricted mode that is known as Enhanced Security Configuration. This mode mitigates this vulnerability.

  • By default, all supported versions of Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, and Windows Mail open HTML email messages in the Restricted sites zone. The Restricted sites zone, which disables script and ActiveX controls, helps reduce the risk of an attacker being able to use this vulnerability to execute malicious code. If a user clicks a link in an email message, the user could still be vulnerable to exploitation of this vulnerability through the web-based attack scenario.

  • An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

  • In a web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a website that contains a webpage that is used to exploit this vulnerability. In addition, compromised websites and websites that accept or host user-provided content or advertisements could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability. In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these websites. Instead, an attacker would have to convince users to visit the website, typically by getting them to click a link in an email message or Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker’s website.

More information in the full article. There is no patch. But Microsoft has given some recommendations which are easier to understand at Security Garden’s posting:

Recommendations

As illustrated in the “Security Research and Defense Blog” reference below, users of IE 10 and 11 should ensure they haven’t disabled Enhanced Protection Mode.

Another option is to install the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). The recommended setting for EMET 4.1, available from KB Article 2458544, is automatically configured to help protect Internet Explorer. No additional steps are required.

See the Tech Net Advisory for instructions on changing the following settings to help protect against exploitation of this vulnerability:

  • Change your settings for the Internet security zone to high to block ActiveX controls and Active Scripting

  • Change your settings to prompt before running Active Scripting or to disable Active Scripting in the Internet and Local intranet security zone.

 

Those still using Windows XP on the Internet, please be aware:

VERY IMPORTANT FOR ANY HOLD OUT WINDOWS XP USERS

This is the first of the security vulnerabilities that DOES NOT include workarounds  for Windows XP. The oldest Windows noted as being affected are: Windows Server 2003 SP2 and Vista SP2.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Once a Microsoft product’s support has expired — as is true now about Windows XP SP3 since April 8, 2014 — Microsoft no longer lists it as affected by the vulnerabilities being patched. Microsoft only list Windows versions which are still under Mainstream Support or Extended Support. This has always been the case.

If anyone is still using Windows XP on the Internet (UNWISE!!), it would be strongly recommended to disallow IE (Internet Explorer) access to the Internet through your software firewall*, and use another browser like Firefox and Google Chrome which will still be getting updates for a time.

* Any Windows XP users still on the Internet should at least have:

  • a hardware router with Stateful Packet Firewall
  • should be using a ‘real’ software firewall as well as a good AV program. Just one good choice that will continue to support Windows XP is ESET’s Smart Security which is a very good antivirus and firewall. It is the one I use. It is not free. There are several free antivirus programs but not many free security suites.
  • block Internet Explorer through the ESET or other software firewall.
  • should be using a 3rd party browser like Mozilla Firefox with NoScript, Adblock Plus and WOT to help sort out safer search results on search engines, or Google Chrome with ScriptSafe, Adblock Plus and WOT Extension.
  • uninstall Java entirely, keep Adobe Flash religiously updated for Firefox as long as Adobe continues to provide them. Google Chrome updates Flash within itself. Might want to switch from Adobe Reader to Sumatra PDF reader which is a simple PDF viewer.
  • need to be even more careful than ever before about where you go. The bad guys will be looking with great anticipation for computers with expired Windows XP.
  • no risky behavior
  • no banking … note very soon banks will be disallowing expired Windows XP entirely anyway.

IMPORTANT: You can not block a program from getting out to the Internet with the Windows XP Firewall. It is only a one way firewall. It only monitors incoming Internet requests, instead of both ways as any real firewall including Windows 7 and Windows 8 built-in software firewalls do.

Here’s a quote from a ZDNet article:

To those planning to stick resolutely with the aged Windows XP operating system even after Microsoft ends support next year, the advice from experts is simple: Don’t do it.

Again: I would strongly suggest you get a new computer, upgrade your computer if it can be upgraded to a modern/still supported Windows such as Windows 7 or Windows 8, or get a Mac, or you could  convert/upgrade the computer to Linux or use a Linux LiveCD to visit the Internet and still use Windows XP as a standalone NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET computer.

If you need help with any of this, please contact your computer guru, join a forums like Scot’s Newsletter Forums – BATL (Bruno’s All Things Linux) to ask questions, or you can use the contact info on my website  to contact me for some help.

Apple Security Updates – Safari for Macs

Apple security updates

safari logo

Safari 6.1.3 and Safari 7.0.3 – April 1, 2014

Affects

  • OS X Lion and OS X Lion Server v10.7.5
  • OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.5
  • OS X Mavericks v10.9.2

About the security content of Safari 6.1.3 and Safari 7.0.3 – HT6181:

This document describes the security content of Safari 6.1.3 and Safari 7.0.3.

This update can be downloaded and installed using Software Update, or from the Apple Support website.

For the protection of our customers, Apple does not disclose, discuss, or confirm security issues until a full investigation has occurred and any necessary patches or releases are available. To learn more about Apple Product Security, see the Apple Product Security website.

For information about the Apple Product Security PGP Key, see “How to use the Apple Product Security PGP Key.”

Where possible, CVE IDs are used to reference the vulnerabilities for further information.
To learn about other Security Updates, see “Apple Security Updates“.

Safari 6.1.3 and Safari 7.0.3

  • WebKit
    Available for: OS X Lion v10.7.5, OS X Lion Server v10.7.5, OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.5, OS X Mavericks v10.9.2
    Impact: Visiting a maliciously crafted website may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution
    Description: Multiple memory corruption issues existed in WebKit. These issues were addressed through improved memory handling

More in the KB HT6181 article about the specific CVE-IDs addressed.

 

According to ITWire article:

Specific changes called out by Apple are a fix for an issue that could cause the search and address field to load a webpage or send a search term before the return key is pressed, support for generic top-level domains (so that Safari loads the requested page instead of treating it as a search term), and strengthened Safari sandboxing.

Very important update.

XP SP3 and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8, 2014

Windows XP has been around since August 24, 2001 – 12 years ago now. It is getting VERY long in the tooth.

Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8th, 2014

Like many Operating System versions, Windows XP was not such a great OS in the beginning. BUT, like many Microsoft products, it got better after Service Pack 1 (SP1), but wasn’t the best it could be till after Service Pack 2 (SP2) and mildly better after Service Pack 3 (SP3). SP3 is the current version of Windows XP.

I loved Windows XP for a long time, even though it was getting long in the tooth. But I have come to love Windows 7 even more. Windows 8 … the jury is still out. For me I use several different operating systems. I also love and use Mac OS X or just OS X (as it is called now) and Debian Linux.

Windows XP has been on life support or Extended Support since April 8, 2009 when Mainstream Support ended. That was after two says of execution as it were since it was supposed to be ended earlier than 2009.

Windows XP has been the main stay for many folks for a long time in the Windows world — the last 12 years. That’s a long time for an Operating System version.

Windows XP still holds the #2 spot at 31.24% of computer users as shown below in the graph from NetMarketShare.com:

NetMarketShare.com Operating System Breakout - November 1, 2013

NetMarketShare.com Operating System Breakout – November 1, 2013

Windows 7 holds the #1 spot for a very good reason. It is still the best of the newer Operating Systems from Microsoft to date — in my opinion and nearly half of all Windows users to date. And Windows 7 is still good to go until January 14, 2020 (end of Extended Support – it is still in Mainstream Support until January 15, 2015). Here’s the break out of the Windows lifecycle fact sheet info:

Windows Life Cycles from the Windows Life Cycle Fact Sheet

Windows Life Cycles from the Windows Life Cycle Fact Sheet

I have said all this because we need to see where were are, and where we need to be as computer users, particularly as Windows users with April 8, 2014 looming over those of us still using Windows XP.

Especially in the light of the pervasive malware purveyors out there today.

We need to make sure we are all no longer using Windows XP of any kind before or at least by April 8, 2014 when Microsoft will no longer be providing ANY security updates for Windows XP.

A few years back they did the same thing with Windows 2000. It’s now Windows XP’s turn.

Please read the following articles to see why this will be very important:

Windows XP infection rate may jump 66% after patches end in April – Computerworld

Microsoft yesterday again put the scare into Windows XP users, telling them that after April 8, 2014, the chance that malware will infect their PCs could jump by two-thirds.

Windows lifecycle fact sheet – Microsoft.com (image above)

New stats show Windows 8 usage up sharply as XP usage plummets – ZDNet (for curiosity though, look at the difference between the table on ZDNet’s article and the one today).

NetMarketShare (choose Operating Systems from the dropdown to see the chart above in real time)

Gartner Says Worldwide PC, Tablet and Mobile Phone Shipments to Grow 4.5 Percent in 2013 as Lower-Priced Devices Drive Growth – Gartner.com

Source: Gartner Oct 2013 - Worldwide Device Shipments by Segment

Source: Gartner Oct 2013 – Worldwide Device Shipments by Segment

It would appear, that, as predicted, many around the world are moving to other types of computers, in particular mobile devices. This was forecast and it would seem to be coming to pass rather dramatically now.

It is amazing to see the number of people who rarely if ever use their desktop computers these days, relying on their mobile devices for almost all, if not all, their computing and Internet needs. Some folks no longer even have a computer other than a tablet, like the iPad or Nexus Tablet, or Surface, etc., or just use their smartphones for their email, browsing, messaging, gaming, etc. which is the bulk of what people seem to do on the Internet these days. Unless of course if their work or business, or gaming bents, are important to them. Having said that, even gaming has very much gone mobile for many people.

I am hoping that folks will take a look at the overall picture and determine which direction they wish to go now that there are only a few months left before Windows XP will no longer be a viable Internet connected computer.

Will a Desktop or Laptop be the way to go, or will a Mobile device like a Tablet or maybe even just a smartphone be enough for many folks? Staying with Windows or moving to a Mac may also be a consideration.

No matter which way folks ultimately go, deciding will be important and thinking about this is really needed with Windows XP going away in just a short few months.

Over 31% of computer users will need to make this decision before April 8, 2014, if they wish to remain as safe as they can be on the Internet.

Even with Google Chrome continuing to support Windows XP SP3 a year after Microsoft (till 2015), if the Operating System itself has no updates, that will certainly not be enough.

Lots to think about and only a few months to decide … Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8th, 2014

Critical Java SE update due Tuesday fixes 40 flaws

Critical Java SE update due Tuesday fixes 40 flaws – The Reg

And yes, most are remotely exploitable

According to Oracle’s security announcement, the patch pack addresses 40 different vulnerabilities. All update levels of Java SE 5, 6, and 7 are affected by the flaws, as are all versions of JavaFX.

Of the 40 bugs, all but three are remotely exploitable over a network without the need for a username or password.

Oracle plans to release its latest Java SE Critical Patch Update on June 18, 2013.

Watch for it and install it if you have Java installed on your system. If you are sure you don’t need Java for anything, it would be best to uninstall it or disable it until the update, or at least disable Java in your browsers.