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Risk

5/30/2010
07:42 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Adobe Contemplates Monthly Patch Cycle

While Apple has turned up the heat on Adobe by refusing the Flash platform on the iPhone and iPad platform - Adobe's customers have been coming under increasing fire from attackers for using its Flash and Adobe Reader applications. Now the company is considering taking a move from Microsoft's playbook and switching to a monthly patch cycle.

While Apple has turned up the heat on Adobe by refusing the Flash platform on the iPhone and iPad platform - Adobe's customers have been coming under increasing fire from attackers for using its Flash and Adobe Reader applications. Now the company is considering taking a move from Microsoft's playbook and switching to a monthly patch cycle.When it comes to security, Adobe has had a rough few years. But that's what happens to software companies that focus so heavily on features and design and barely a nod toward developing sustainable and secure applications. And from what I've been able to tell, that's exactly what Adobe has done for far too long.

Now its business customers are putting on the pressure (not unlike the pressure government agencies and Fortune 500 businesses placed on Microsoft after so many worm attacks earlier this decade) on Adobe to help better keep their systems secure.

According to this report from The H Security:

In view of the large number of security vulnerabilities discovered in recent months, major customers appear to have increased the pressure on Adobe to reduce the interval between security patch releases. Arkin has told The H's associates at heise Security that a monthly cycle is one of the alternatives currently under discussion. He adds that, in emergencies, Adobe is also now in a position to develop patches within 15 days and to release them outside of the regular patch cycle. This compares with the 80 days Arkin's team needed to develop a patch for the JBIG2 vulnerability in spring 2009.

In addition to Adobe Reader, the company wants to bring products such as Flash and Shockwave into the update cycle. Previously, updates for these products have been released as needed and when ready. It's not clear whether products other than Adobe Reader will be patched automatically by means of the new update mechanism.

The article doesn't say what the new update mechanism may be, but let's hope it's not modeled after the updater provided for OS X which is one of the buggiest, most useless software utilities I've ever been forced to contend.

While the increased patch cycle is welcomed, and will help to reduce the "window of vulnerability" to its customers, the company really has to do more to secure its new and legacy codebase.

Late last year, security vendor McAfee predicted that Adobe Reader and Flash would surpass Microsoft Office applications as a favorite target of cyber criminals. From Antone Gonsalves story, Adobe To Surpass Microsoft As Hacker Target:

In unveiling its 2010 Threat Predictions report, McAfee said the growing popularity of the Adobe products has attracted the attention of cybercriminals, who have been increasingly targeting the applications. Adobe Reader and Flash are two of the most widely deployed applications in the world.

As a result of Adobe's success in client software, McAfee Labs believes "Adobe product exploitation will likely surpass that of Microsoft Office applications in 2010." Security experts for quite a while have warned of the potential security risk posed by Flash. In November, Foreground Security identified a flaw in the way Web browsers handle Flash files that could be used to compromise Web sites that have users submit content.

Remind me, again, why we would want this software installed on our mobile phones and tablets, let alone our PCs?

For my security, business, and technology observations throughout the day find me on Twitter.

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