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Adobe Flash Player has ‘critical’ security issue, won’t be addressed until next week

If you use Adobe’s Flash Player at all, tread cautiously. The company released a security advisory late yesterday revealing that a “critical vulnerability” was found in pretty much all versions of the multimedia platform as well as in Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader.

Affected versions include: “Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions (Adobe Flash Player and earlier for Chrome users) for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Solaris operating systems, Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Android, and the Authplay.dll component that ships with Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.0.1) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions of Reader and Acrobat for Windows and Macintosh operating systems.”

The vulnerability could result in a crash or potentially be exploited by a hacker to “take control of the affected system.” Worse, there are reports already that this security hole is being exploited via a Flash file (.swf) embedded in a Microsoft Excel (.xls) spreadsheet that arrives as an e-mail attachment. So for the two of you who happily download everything that comes into your mailbox, even if you don’t recognize the sender… stop. It appears that there are no similar exploits out there for Reader or Acrobat yet; Adobe notes that the Protected Mode in Reader X “would prevent an exploit of this kind from executing.”

Work on a fix is underway. Those versions of software with critical flaws — which is everything other than Reader X, since running in Protected Mode will keep you safe — are getting the most attention. Adobe expects a fix to go live “during the week of March 21, 2011.” Reader X for Windows will be addressed as well, but not until the applications quarterly security update, which is currently set for release on June 14.

Unfortunately, the question at the start of this post is a rhetorical one. If you’re on the Internet in any way, then you use Flash. Unless you’re using an Apple iDevice, of course. Somewhere in Cupertino, Steve Jobs is snickering.

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