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attacks (if they have not already in anticipation of this change) to look for these older vulnerable systems using outdated/vulnerable versions of Google Chrome as new attack vectors for these abandoned Windows and Mac users.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

New Mac Malware – Is Mac no longer safer?

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Update: 5/25/2011 – Updates to this posting from Computerworld and USAToday and Apple themselves in the form of a Support document to help users to remove the malware, and promise to provide a tool that will remove it and notify users if they attempt to download the malware. See details below.

With the equivalent of “Security Center 2011” now having a counterpart for the Mac called “MAC Defender, Mac Security, Mac Protector, or any number of knockoff names“, there is a lot of discussion as to how safe the Mac still is compared with Windows.

I have not seen any Windows variant of this type of malware that is as easy to remove from Windows as it is from the Mac.

Sure, Malwarebytes Antimalware will take care of it easily on Windows, even if you somehow are tricked through social engineering to click on it (it can get a little dicier depending on how far you let it get), but with the Mac, you just go to Applications, find Mac Defender and throw it in the trash and flush. What’s easier than that? Here‘s the full instructions in Bleeping Computer’s full removal instructions.

EDIT 5/25/2011 – IMPORTANT REMOVAL INFO: Apple has also now posted removal instructions including killing the process, removing the program, and stopping it from starting on boot, here. This was noted in Computerworld: Apple admits Mac scareware infections, promises cleaning tool and USAToday: Apple to issue Mac update to halt malware attacks, and Arstechnica: Apple acknowledges Mac Defender malware, promises software update, as well as likely other places on the web today.

The Computerworld article above notes:

Andrew Storms, director of security operations with nCircle Security, was surprised that Apple said it would embed a malware cleaning tool in Mac OS X.

“That’s new ground for Apple,” Storms said, pointing out that the move is a first for the company, which until now has only offered a bare-bones malware detection mechanism in Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, and then only populated it with a handful of signatures.

“Not only is Apple going to help customers remove [Mac Defender], but by doing so, they’re also admitting that there are security problems with Mac OS,” Storms said.

Even though it is very easy to remove, with Mac Defender out there, it does mean that malware, particularly on compromised websites, have begun to include other platforms. And you can bet others will follow. And they may not be as easy to remove.

So, does it mean Mac users should be installing Antivirus and/or Antimalware programs? I have, but according to the Wired.com article below:

Charlie Miller, a security researcher who has repeatedly won the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest by hacking Macs and iPhones, told Wired.com he doesn’t think so.

Ultimately, it’s up to the customer because there’s a trade-off involved. Anti-virus software will help protect your system from being infected, but it’s expensive, uses system memory and reduces battery life.

“Mac malware is still relatively rare, but is getting worse,” Miller said. “At some point soon, the scales will tip to installing antivirus, but at this point, I don’t think it’s worth it yet for most people.”

So how is this happening?

Browser choice and settings The first problem I see for Mac users is Safari and it’s settings. First for the same reason I rarely ever use Internet Explorer in Windows, I rarely use Safari on the Mac. Safari by default allows opening of files automatically after download. Bad move. This caused problems in the past with some ‘rogue’ Widgets a few years ago, but folks realized it was easy to fix this and turned it off under Safari preferences. With Safari open, Click Safari on the Menu bar, then click Preferences, on the first tab (General), at the bottom, untick Open ‘safe’ files after downloading. Personally, I prefer to use a variety of browsers, such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera for various things. Firefox and Chrome have some some great addons to help protect you. Opera has some as well.

Keeping programs up to date – Keeping Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and other addons/plugins, web browsers, and other software that touch the Internet up to date, as well as the operating system itself.

Paying attention The next biggest problem I see are people not paying close enough attention (regardless of their OS), and not familiarizing themselves with their OS as well as they could. This type of malware tries to replicate some sort of a security area on the OS to some degree and scare you into thinking they are finding malware on your system.

This type of malware requires you allow the installation.

On Windows computers, by clicking through the Administrator authentication box, and on the Mac by authenticating with your Admin password.

On Windows, way too many things ask for this kind of authentication (although it is better than it used to be), but on the Mac, which is more like UNIX/Linux in that regard, you are only asked when it could be a potential threat to the system like installing software that wants access to the system, or needs access to system areas. We should always be sure we know what is being installed and why before authenticating with our Admin password. Don’t have a password? Set one up under Accounts in the System Preferences today!

Search results People need to be able to tell the legitimate search results from the bogus ones that have managed to get into the top searches through Black Hat SEO technicques. If you don’t have a way to at least tell whether a site is good, bad or indifferent, it makes it so easy to click on the wrong one. There are programs that can help with this. They are not foolproof, use common sense as well. A free community based one is MyWOT and it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are others that work on Windows as well from antivirus/firewall companies.

Keeping things cleaned up Having and using a temporary files cleaner. I run it after every single browser session, but every day or at worst case once a week would work as long as you don’t notice any issues or weirdness with your OS.

There is a good one for Windows called CCleaner (free and paid versions). For the Mac there are several available. I like MainMenu. It is not free, priced at $15 and a bit more for the Pro version. Main Menu is also available in the MacApp Store. Another favorite is free, OnyX.

You can find out more information about this “Mac Defender” malware in the following articles:

An AppleCare support rep talks: Mac malware is “getting worse” (at Ed Bott Microsoft Report on ZDNet (first article on it)

New Mac Malware Fools Customers, But Threat Still Relatively Small (Wired.com’s Gadget Labs)

Malware on the Mac: is there cause for concern? Ars investigates (Arstechnica)

Modern Mac owners need to ignore the dinosaurs and get protection (Hardware 2.0 at ZDNet)

Microsoft links fake Mac AV to Windows scareware gang (Computerworld)

Don’t Panic Over the Latest Mac Malware Story (SecurityWeek):

Now that we’ve established who benefits from Mac malware predictions — security companies and a certain type of IT professional — the second question is, do we care about the prediction that “serious” malware is coming to Macs? Only a little. It is true that Macs aren’t dusted with some sort of magic unicorn Unix-y pixie powder that makes it less vulnerable to security flaws than Windows. But it is equally true that the Mac remains a less risky platform than Windows because of the fewer strains of malware written for OS X. By “fewer” I mean 99% fewer: a hundred malware samples versus 50 million. The Mac also has a much less evolved malware supply chain. By “less evolved” I mean “nonexistent,” this one example notwithstanding.

And with that, I will close this topic for the time being…

EDIT added Bleeping Computer article on removal of Mac Defender and the last article from Hardware 2.0 at ZDNet and Microsoft links face Mac AV to Windows Scareware Gang at Computerworld and Don’t Panic Over the Latest Mac Malware Story at SecurityWeek.