MacSysAdmin is September 16th through September 19th, 2014 – hope to see you there!
In the past 24 hours, Apple has released an update to the XProtect malware definitions. If your Macs have received the latest XProtect definitions, Adobe Flash Player will be blocked unless it is the version current as of yesterday (11.5.502.149).
If you have already updated your clients to that version of the Flash Player, good for you!
If you don’t want to be surprised by this sort of thing and have to scramble to address it, might I point you here?
Mike Boylan writes in a reply to my previous post:
…I have to respectfully disagree that disabling the auto-update mechanism for Xprotect should be done in organizations with managed machines. Do you disable the automatic update mechanism for your anti-virus software? Do you manually test every definition update and push each one out through Munki? I’d assume not. Xprotect (clearly) isn’t serving the same type of updates as Apple software update. It’s a malware prevention/blocking (and in some cases, removal) system. I won’t argue that Xprotect’s disabling of Java plugins will almost certainly have a larger impact across organizations than say something like a Sophos definition update, but nonetheless, the intent is still to protect systems. Xprotect and anti-virus software together are meant to serve complimentary roles. These Java plugins are being disabled because serious known exploits are being used in the wild. For a company that cannot function without version xyx of the Java plugin, does it make sense to make changes so that it can continue to operate effectively? Sure. But I doubt most organizations rely that heavily on a single plugin. Also, how many different types of updaters should we as admins be responsible for managing? There are already too many. For most admins, I don’t think it’d be a responsible decision to add Xprotect to the list.
If Xprotect’s disabling of web plugins has not caused your organization any issues, or you are willing to react to any issues such disabling might occur in the future, it may well make sense to leave things as they are for your organization.
In my organization, the Java 6 web plugin is required to perform vital, daily business functions. When it doesn’t work, business functions are seriously impacted.
My argument might be subtle.
Apple is acting as systems administrator for machines by updating the XProtect plists. As long as you are content to let Apple make those changes, and won’t complain if Apple makes a change that breaks things for you, by all means, leave the XProtect updater mechanism alone.
If, on the other hand, _you_ are taking responsibility for managing your machines, making sure they are functional for your organization, and keeping them safe from malware, you’ll want to disable _Apple’s_ update of the XProtect malware definitions, and take over updating them yourself.
If you do not want to be surprised that one morning Java or Flash or some other plugin has been disabled on all the Macs you manage, you cannot let Apple update these definitions without your review. You must take responsibility for reviewing and implementing Apple’s changes, or a modification thereof.
Is this more work? Yes. Does it add risk to your organization? Probably. All security is a trade-off between functionality and protection. Malware protection that prevents my users from doing their work is not an acceptable trade-off. Apple has made one decision about the trade-offs, one that protects a great number of Mac users while negatively affecting a very small number of them. That is not the correct decision for my organization.
The only way I can ensure the correct decisions are made for my organization is to not leave the decision making process solely to Apple, but to instead review Apple’s changes and alter them if needed for the benefit of my organization.
Each organization needs to weigh this decision for themselves.
I’ve been thinking more about Apple’s Xprotect Updater mechanism in light of the recent updates that have disabled Java web plugins. See yesterday’s post, for example.
In many enterprise environments, admins choose to run their own Software Update server to provide Apple updates. This is done for several reasons. One is to save bandwidth — it’s more efficient for a single machine to download available Apple updates over your Internet connection, then have all the other machines get those updates over the local LAN.
But another reason is to be able to control which updates are offered to your managed computers. Apple may offer an update that causes issues in your organization. For example, we did not deploy the “Java for OS X 2012-006″ update in our environment because it disabled the Java 6 Web Plugin, which we needed.
Yesterday’s Xprotect update essentially did the same thing, this time over a wider range of machines. I quickly put together a workaround, but one of the things the workaround does is to turn off the automatic updates of the XProtect data.
After thinking more about the ramifications of this, I think that this is exactly what most enterprise sites should do. They should treat this update mechanism like all other update mechanisms. I think you should turn this off on most or all of your managed machines.
“But wait,” you are thinking. “Isn’t this risky? Apple is trying to protect users from malware.” If you only turned off the update mechanism on all your machines and did nothing else, you are adding risk. But what you should do is something similar to what an admin that vets Apple Software Updates (or third-party application updates) does before releasing them.
You should enable the update mechanism on an admin machine. When there are new XProtect.meta.plist and/or XProtect.plist files, you should test to see that they don’t cause any issues in your organization, modifying them if needed. You can then use your favorite software deployment system (I like Munki) to distribute these files to your managed machines.
In this way, your managed machines can still get the benefit of updates to Apple’s malware protection mechanism without risking that a component vital to your organization will be blocked without warning.
Today Apple updated the XProtect.meta.plist file, which, among other things, causes XProtect to disable Java Plugins that don’t meet a minimum version.
The net effect was to disable the Java 6 plugin on all browsers, as well as Java 7 plugins older than 126.96.36.199.
If you need to continue to use the Java 6 plugin in your organization, you can revert the changes and disable the mechanism that updates the XProtect.meta.plist by installing this package:
This is a payload-free package that runs this script as a postflight:
#!/bin/sh # don't check JavaWebComponentVersionMinimum XPROTECT_META_PLIST="$3/System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources/XProtect.meta.plist" /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Delete :JavaWebComponentVersionMinimum" "$XPROTECT_META_PLIST" # disable the xprotectupdater job LAUNCHD_JOB_PLIST="$3/System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.xprotectupdater.plist" /bin/launchctl unload -w "$LAUNCHD_JOB_PLIST"
I won’t tell you this is a smart thing to install; there are many reasons to leave things as they are. Apple disabled these plugins to protect from known exploits. By re-enabling them, you are opening up your managed machines to these exploits.
But if your org needs the Java 6 Web Plugin, this should get you running again. You should re-enable the XProtect updater as soon as you are able, though:
sudo /bin/launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.xprotectupdater.plist
NOTE: if you need to re-enable an older version of the Oracle Java 1.7 Plugin, you’ll need to edit the postflight script and add something like:
/usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Set :PlugInBlacklist:10:com.oracle.java.JavaAppletPlugin:MinimumPlugInBundleVersion 188.8.131.52" "$XPROTECT_META_PLIST"
(Sadly, WordPress changes a colon followed by a P into a emoticon, even in pre-formatted text. Not helping…)
This sets the MinimumPlugInBundleVersion for the Oracle Java Web Plugin back to the value it was with the 10 Jan 2013 version of the XProtect.meta.plist. Again, if you do this, you are choosing to expose your machines to a known Java Web Plugin exploit. Do so at your own risk.
(Update 01 Feb 21013)
If you need to run the Oracle Java 1.7 Plugin (or are already running it and it’s been disabled) the best fix is to update the Java install. As of this writing, Java 7 Release 13 for OS X is available here. This installs a web plugin with BundleVersion 184.108.40.206.
(Update 02 Feb 2103)
Apple has released a Java 6 update for Snow Leopard. Installing this update will restore Java 6 web plugin functionality under Mac OS 10.6. This won’t help if you need to use the Java 6 web plugin under OS X 10.7 or later.
Adobe has posted some information and a fix for the recent issue with Adobe Photoshop CS6 registration/activations:
This issue appears to have been triggered by the Photoshop CS6 13.0.2 and/or 13.0.3 updates. The official recommendation on a fix is to update Photoshop CS6 to 13.0.4, then use the APTEE tool to remove and reapply serialization. See the above post for more details.
The APTEE tool is not exactly easy to use to deploy this fix in an enterprise environment; you need to install it on all your machines and also run a script (which you must write, test, and debug) on all your machines to perform the unserialization/reserialization.
Later today I will post a tool to help you create a standard Apple package to perform these steps. If you have some way to distribute and install Apple packages on your machines, you’ll be able to do the unserialization/reserialization by installing a package.
Check back later!
Recently (starting some time after the first of the year), we’ve started having users call and tell us that their formerly working install of Adobe Photoshop CS6 was now asking for a sign-in:
We could not figure out why this was happening. An uninstall and reinstall of our AAMEE3-generated installation package seemed to get things working. But then the same users would call back the next day with the same issue.