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8/13/2009
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Nearly 80% Of Users Vulnerable To Adobe Flash Attack

Most users haven't fixed their Acrobat Reader apps two weeks after Adobe issued critical patch, Trusteer says

Adobe may have sped up its process of releasing security patches to its software, but most users apparently aren't applying them immediately or at all, according to new data released today.

Trusteer found that close to 80 percent of users are running older and vulnerable versions of Flash, and 84 percent, older and vulnerable versions of Acrobat Reader. The data (PDF) was gathered from Trusteer's 2.5 million users of its Rapport browser security service, 98.8 percent of whom have Flash active in their browsers.

At the end of July Adobe released a critical update to Flash and Reader that closed serious bugs in the popular applications. "We're seeing [exploits] in the wild, with downloads of malware on Websites exploiting it," says Mickey Boodaei, CEO of Trusteer. "The vulnerability allows cybercriminals to completely compromise a customer's computer."

Adobe began issuing patches on a quarterly cycle back in May in an effort to better secure its Reader and Acrobat applications.

Meanwhile, Brad Arkin, director of product security and privacy at Adobe, says Adobe has worked to simplify the update process for users. "Delivering product updates to users in a timely manner is only part of an effective security response -- users also need to install the updates to be protected. We take several additional steps to make users aware of and help them get the latest versions of our products," he said.

Arkin says Adobe has beefed up its update alert process via blogs, mailing lists, and other channels. It has updated Flash Player installers on its Flash Player pages and now notifies Flash users when a new update is available.

It also has "configured the Adobe Update Manager to push the latest update to Adobe Reader and Acrobat users," Arkin says.

But Trusteer's Boodaei says Adobe's update installation process is broken. "The update system is broken or not suitable for addressing vulnerabilities and security concerns," he says. "To upgrade from one version of [Adobe] to another is OK...but not for issuing emergency patches. And that's extremely worrisome because of the wide distribution of Acrobat products."

Boodaei says Flash has a 30-day default setting for receiving updates. "To change that is more complex," he says, requiring access to a specific page on Adobe's Website that's not easy to locate, and then users have to figure out how to change the setting.

Users aren't getting their emergency Flash updates because they appear to be getting caught in the 30-day cycle, he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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