May 04, 2012, 3:36 PM — Adobe today warned that hackers are exploiting a critical vulnerability in its popular Flash Player program, and issued an emergency update to patch the bug.
"There are reports that the vulnerability is being exploited in the wild in active targeted attacks designed to trick the user into clicking on a malicious file delivered in an email message," the Friday advisory said.
Although all editions of Flash Player contain the vulnerability and should be patched, the active exploit is targeting only users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE).
Flash Player for IE is an ActiveX plug-in, the Microsoft-only standard; other browsers, including Firefox and Chrome, use a different plug-in structure.
The update was pegged with Adobe's priority rating of "1," used to label patches for actively-exploited vulnerabilities or bugs that will likely be exploited. For such updates, Adobe recommends that customers install the new version within 72 hours.
Adobe disclosed relatively few details about the vulnerability -- its usual practice -- other than to label it an "object confusion vulnerability," note the Common Vulnerabilities & Exposures ID of CVE-2012-0779, and acknowledge that triggering the bug "could cause the application to crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system."
It's unclear how extensive the active attacks are, although Adobe's calling them "targeted" hints at a low volume of attempts aimed at specific individuals or companies.
Today's Flash Player update was the fourth this year -- the latest before Friday was on March 28 -- putting the frequently-patched program on about the same pace as last year, when Adobe issued a total of nine Flash security updates.
In March, Adobe addressed the frequent updating pain point -- at least for Windows users -- by shipping Flash Player 11.2, which uses a silent, background update mechanism. The silent update is supposed to kick in in some situations to automatically patch the plug-in in IE, Firefox, Safari and Opera on Windows without notifying or bothering users.
At the time, Adobe said it would switch on silent updates " on a case-by-case basis," but hinted that the service would primarily be used to distribute patches for zero-day vulnerabilities, such as today's.
Friday, Adobe confirmed that it has, in fact, enabled Flash silent updates for Windows in this instance.