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attacks (if they have not already in anticipation of this change) to look for these older vulnerable systems using outdated/vulnerable versions of Google Chrome as new attack vectors for these abandoned Windows and Mac users.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.

New, sneakier Flashback malware infects Macs

New, sneakier Flashback malware infects Macs – Computerworld

A new, sneakier variant of the Flashback malware was uncovered yesterday by the French security firm Intego.

Flashback.S, which Intego described Monday, uses the same Java vulnerability as an earlier version that has infected an estimated 820,000 Macs since its appearance and still plagues over 600,000 machines.

But unlike Flashback.K, the variant that first surfaced last month and has caused consternation among Mac users, Flashback.S never asks the victim to enter an administrative password for installation, but instead relies only on the silent exploit of the Java bug to sneak onto the system.

“The differences are very subtle,” Peter James, a spokesman for Intego, said in an interview Tuesday. “There’s no password request [by Flashback.S].”

Much more in the two page article.

Apple will likely need to update their seek and destroy tool very quickly to help users stay free of this new variant.

If you think you are beginning to need an antivirus/antimalware solution, there are quite a few out there. Below are just a few:


Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition
– Sophos has a worthy product out there and it is nice that they make their money on corporate/business computers and offer the home version for free.

ClamXav The Free Anti-Virus Solution for Mac OS X It uses the popular open source ClamAV engine as it’s back end and has the ability to detect both Windows and Mac threats.

There are other options as well for the Pay to Play crowd.

ESET Cybersecurity for Mac

And others from Intego Virus Barrier for Mac free and Pro versions available in the Mac App Store. Intego as noted above found this newest FlashBack in the wild). Other Mac antivirus firms Symantec/Norton, and many more.

Many of these come with a heavy CPU usage hit that is very annoying considering the small number of actual threats out there for the Mac. Of course some users may feel that the ones that provide real time protection are the way to go, some may feel it is worth it if their Macs are speedy enough and they have enough RAM.

For those who don’t think they need a Mac antivirus just yet, if you don’t use Java or none of your programs use Java, you could go to the ~/Applications/Utilities/Java Preferences.app and disable Java until you actually need it and then re-enable it as needed. It’s a very easy thing to do really.

Or you could set up AppleScript to monitor areas where malware might inject itself so it will alert you.

Monitor OS X LaunchAgents folders to help prevent malware attacks – CNET

Some additional locations to add can be found at MrAnderson.info here.

Also installing Piriform CCleaner for Mac is a great idea and can be run as needed very quickly every day even.

Certainly less of a system resource hit and one could still have a non-resident antivirus and scan at your convenience and respond if the Applescript tells you something is going on that you didn’t instigate by installing a program, etc.

The Applescript monitoring locations that you can set up is built with Mac OS X which is light on resources and free. The Applescript monitoring does a similar thing as WinPatrol does in Windows – but of course in a very small area comparatively. WinPatrol does so much more but the key similarity is the monitoring for changes to areas that malware can hit a Windows PC.

What we need for people who are not very savvy about these things is a MacPatrol app like WinPatrol.

Call Starkist

Scot’s Newsletter Forums Celebrating their 8th Year!

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Hard to believe that it has been 8 years since Scot Finnie — who is now the Editor in Chief of Computerworld — started a little experimental forum, Scot’s Newsletter Forums! Eight years later, it is still going strong.

I remember when the forums first started. Many of us were there from the beginning, or very nearly so. We were subscribers of Scot’s Newsletter when Scot announced to his subscribers.

I had been reading Scot Finnie’s articles since the old, now defunct WinMag days, and was saddened when they no longer published it. I lost track of Scot Finnie and a host of other writers for a time. I was very excited to hear about Scot Finnie and others who used to write for WinMag going on to have their own online/email newsletters and websites and finding them all over the place on the Internet.

The Scot’s Newsletter Forums has turned out to be a great place to gather, and help each other with various computer related issues, problems.

It’s a place where we SNF (Scot’s Newsletter Forums) “Highlanders” share our joys of success, and get help and understanding for our computer woes, and we have gained a level of friendship and community that is quite special, even among forums. I know that the SNF community literally reached out after the devastation of Hurricane Isabel, and physically and monetarily, as well as just emotional encouragement, helped us fix our roof — And I do mean physically. Some of the members who lived ‘near by’ actually traveled to our house with tools, materials and a willing spirit to help us put our roof back together. For those that wanted to help, but couldn’t come, they helped with providing funds to buy materials. It was a great blessing to us! And showed that even an Internet based community can be as real as any other community of neighbors, friends and family.

And all this while we work together with our various operating system situations whether it be Windows (ATW), Mac (ATM), and Linux (BATL) and other areas.

To help us celebrate the 8th year of Scot’s Newsletter Forums, ESET and WinPatrol have teamed up to help make the celebration all the more special by offering licenses to their great products in two different contests!

We really appreciate their generosity!!

Check out Corrine’s Security Garden posting about SNF 8th Anniversary as well; with even more information.

Happy 8th Anniversary Scot’s Newsletter Forums! It has been a wonderful thing to be a part of such a great ‘experiment’. 🙂