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Adobe Patches Critical Flash Vulnerability

Most of the time, security researchers find vulnerabilities in software, and companies issue patches before malefactors ever have a chance to exploit them. Today is not most of the time. Adobe warned the Internet that attackers had already taken advantage of a flaw in the Flash protocol, and that users should update Flash as soon as possible in order to prevent any foul play.

Adobe released a bulletin on its website, urging users on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems to update Flash as soon as possible, especially those using Internet Explorer on Windows 7 or Firefox on Windows XP. (Windows XP is, by itself, actually a considerable security risk at this point.)

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Although Adobe did not share details about exactly what the attacks in the wild were or how they occurred, the company did confirm that Internet Explorer on Windows 7 and Firefox on Windows XP were "known targets." Adobe's post explained that upgrading Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome was of the utmost importance for Windows, Mac and Linux users, while updating Flash Player by itself was a slightly less dire matter for those on Linux.

You can check your version of Flash on Adobe's website to learn if you have the latest, safe version installed. Windows and Mac users with Flash Player should have version 18.0.0.194, while Linux users should have 11.2.202.468. Those on Firefox can follow the page's instructions for how to update Flash, while Chrome and Internet Explorer will do so automatically, as long as you keep the browser software up to date.

In the past few years, researchers have found that Flash vulnerabilities are a fairly common occurrence, up to and including the occasional in-the-wild attack like this one. In the past, Flash was a useful protocol for Internet videos and games, but with the prevalence of more versatile technologies like HTML 5, the plugin may become a security risk without a substantial benefit attached to it.

Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.