Over the last few years, Adobe has protected our Flash Player customers through a technique known as sandboxing. Thus far, we have worked with Google, Microsoft and Mozilla on deploying sandboxes for their respective browsers. Most recently, we have worked with Apple to protect Safari users on OS X. With this week’s release of Safari in OS X Mavericks, Flash Player will now be protected by an OS X App Sandbox.
For the technically minded, this means that there is a specific com.macromedia.Flash Player.plugin.sb file defining the security permissions for Flash Player when it runs within the sandboxed plugin process. As you might expect, Flash Player’s capabilities to read and write files will be limited to only those locations it needs to function properly. The sandbox also limits Flash Player’s local connections to device resources and inter-process communication (IPC) channels. Finally, the sandbox limits Flash Player’s networking privileges to prevent unnecessary connection capabilities.
Safari users on OS X Mavericks can view Flash Player content while benefiting from these added security protections. We’d like to thank the Apple security team for working with us to deliver this solution.
Platform Security Strategist
Today’s release of Flash Player 11.3 brings three important security improvements:
- Flash Player Protected Mode (“sandboxing”) is now available for Firefox users on Windows.
- For Mac users, this release will include the background updater for Mac OS X.
- This release and all future Flash Player releases for Mac OS X will be signed with an Apple Developer ID, so that Flash Player can work with the new Gatekeeper technology for Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8).
Flash Player 11.3 brings the first production release of Flash Player Protected Mode for Firefox on Windows, which we first announced in February. This sandboxing technology is based on the same approach that is used within the Adobe Reader X Protected Mode sandbox. Flash Player Protected Mode for Firefox is another step in our efforts to raise the cost for attackers seeking to leverage a Flash Player bug in a working exploit that harms end-users. This approach has been very successful in protecting Adobe Reader X users, and we hope Flash Player Protected Mode will provide the same level of protection for Firefox users. For those interested in a more technical description of the sandbox, please see the blog post titled Inside Flash Player Protected Mode for Firefox authored by ASSET and the Flash Player team.
The background updater being delivered for Mac OS X uses the same design as the Flash Player updater on Windows. If the user chooses to accept background updates, then the Mac Launch Daemon will launch the background updater every hour to check for updates until it receives a response from the Adobe server. If the server responds that no update is available, the system will begin checking again 24 hours later. If a background update is available, the background updater can download and install the update without interrupting the end-user’s session with a prompt.
With Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8), Apple introduced a feature called “Gatekeeper,” which can help end-users distinguish trusted applications from potentially dangerous applications. Gatekeeper checks a developer’s unique Apple Developer ID to verify that an application is not known malware and that it hasn’t been tampered with. Starting with Flash Player 11.3, Adobe has started signing releases for Mac OS X using an Apple Developer ID certificate. Therefore, if the Gatekeeper setting is set to “Mac App Store and identified developers,” end-users will be able to install Flash Player without being blocked by Gatekeeper. If Gatekeeper blocks the installation of Flash Player with this setting, the end-user may have been subject to a phishing attack. That said, a reminder that Flash Player should only be downloaded from the www.adobe.com website.
No doubt, staying up-to-date on the latest security patches is critical in today’s threat environment. In addition to the many security initiatives we engage in as a vendor to help keep our products and our users safe, the single most important advice we can give to users is to always stay up-to-date. The vast majority of users who ever encountered a security problem using Adobe products were attacked via a known vulnerability that was patched in more recent versions of the software. This is why we’ve invested so much in the Adobe Reader/Acrobat update mechanism introduced in 2010, and more recently in the Flash Player background updater delivered in March of this year and used for the first time with last week’s Flash Player security update. Both update mechanisms give Windows users the option to install updates automatically, without user interaction. A Mac version of the Flash Player background updater is currently in beta and will be available very soon—stay tuned.
In the meantime, we welcome today’s initiative by Apple to encourage Mac users to stay up-to-date: With the Apple Safari 5.1.7 update released today, Apple is disabling older versions of Flash Player (specifically Flash Player 10.1.102.64 and earlier) and directing users to the Flash Player Download Center, from where they can install the latest, most secure version of Flash Player. For more information, visit http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5271.
Remember: The single most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from the bad guys is to stay up-to-date. A thank you to the security team at Apple for working with us to help protect our mutual customers!