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Adobe rushes out emergency fix for critical bug in Flash

'Zero-day' attacks already underway

Reducing security risks from open source software

Adobe Systems has issued an emergency update for its ubiquitous Flash Player that fixes a critical security vulnerability that attackers are actively exploiting to hack end user machines.

Code exploiting the universal XSS, or cross-site scripting, bug “is being exploited in the wild in active targeted attacks designed to trick the user into clicking on a malicious link delivered in an email message,” Adobe said Wednesday in a blog post. It said the bug has been identified as CVE-2011-2444 and was reported by someone from Google, but it didn't elaborate on the people or organizations being targeted in the attacks.

The unscheduled update came a day after Google released a new version of its Chrome browser that included “an update to Flash Player that addresses a zero-day vulnerability.”

Over the past couple years, Google has detected a variety of attacks on users of Gmail and other services. A spear phishing campaign disclosed in June targeted senior US government officials, military officials, and Chinese political activists. In March, the search giant warned that politically motivated attackers were exploiting a then unpatched vulnerability in all supported versions of Windows to spy on Google users.

The Flash vulnerability affects versions 10.3.183.7 and earlier for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris and Flash 10.3.186.6 for Google's Android operating system for mobile phones. Those using recent versions of Flash on Windows or Mac OS X can install the upgrade automatically after being prompted by an auto-update mechanism, or they can upgrade manually by installing a file downloaded here. In some cases, those using Flash with multiple browsers must update more than once. Those wanting to know what version they're currently running should visit this page.

Android users can upgrade by browsing to the Android Marketplace on their handsets.

Wednesday's patch fixes at least five other vulnerabilities that made it possible for attackers to remotely executive code or steal potentially sensitive information on machines running Flash.

Separately, Adobe on Wednesday unveiled several new privacy and security protections that will be added to Flash 11, the next major software upgrade, which is scheduled for release in early October. ®

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