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Adobe switches Flash fix schedule to Patch Tuesdays

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Users of Adobe Flash Player have grown accustomed to frequent security patches, but beginning with its next batch of bugfixes, Adobe says it will release updates on a new, more predictable schedule – one that just happens to coincide with Microsoft's "Patch Tuesday."

"The alignment of the release cycle to Patch Tuesdays will make updates more predictable for customers, in particular for customers running the Flash Player bundled with Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8," Adobe's Wiebke Lips told The Reg in an email.

In the past, Adobe has often issued fixes for Flash security vulnerabilities as soon as they became available, at times even patching critical flaws on Sunday.

Microsoft, on the other hand, prefers to unsettle IT admins as seldom as possible by issuing security fixes on a fixed, regular schedule, with updates arriving the second Tuesday of each month.

The two companies' differing approaches were all well and good until the launch of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. Unlike previous versions of IE, Microsoft has baked Flash support right into its latest browser, in much the same way that Google bundles Flash in Chrome. That means IE 10 users must now get their Flash Player updates from Microsoft, rather than from Adobe.

The change caused some consternation among early Windows 8 adopters in September, when Microsoft announced that it did not intend to publish its first batch of security fixes for IE 10's Flash component until after Windows 8's official launch on October 26 – even though patches had been available for Adobe's standalone Flash Player since August.

Faced with uproar from users who took this to mean that IE 10 would perpetually lag behind other browsers in security, Redmond quickly recanted, issuing an off-schedule patch and promising to coordinate more closely with Adobe on future fixes.

That coordination seems to have been something of a work in progress, however. Initially, Microsoft's Yunsun Wee announced that future IE 10 security fixes would arrive "on a quarterly basis when Adobe normally issues Flash Player updates," with emergency updates occasionally breaking the cadence.

As of Wednesday's announcement, however, the shoe appears to be on the other foot. Although the latest patches arrive a week ahead of Microsoft's next Patch Tuesday, Adobe says future scheduled updates will ship in lockstep with Redmond's own schedule – or mostly, anyway.

"That said, we may ship out-of-cycle updates if appropriate, e.g. in the event of zero-days / exploits in the wild," Lips wrote.

One might hope, since Flash remains one of the most popular targets for web-based exploits. Whether Adobe and Microsoft will see eye-to-eye on what constitutes a critical exploit, however, remains to be seen. ®

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