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Adobe preps silent Flash updates for Macs

Flash Player 11.3 hits beta 3; final to ship before end of June

Adobe last week released a new beta of Flash Player that includes silent updates for Macs.

Adobe first included silent updates for OS X in the Flash Player beta a month ago; the version shipped Friday was tagged as "Beta 3."

Adobe introduced silent updates for Flash Player on Windows in late March. At the time, the company committed to creating the same feature on OS X, but did not set a timetable.

As far as users are concerned, the Mac version is identical to the Windows tool: It pings Adobe's servers every hour until it gets a response. If it reaches Adobe and finds no ready update, the tool re-checks the servers 24 hours later. Found updates, however, are applied entirely in the background, and do not display notices on the screen or require the user to take any action.

By default, Flash 11.3 has silent updates switched on, but users can change the setting to continue to receive on-screen alerts.

In the six weeks since Adobe released silent updates for Flash Player on Windows, it has shipped a pair of updates, including one last Friday that patched a "zero-day" vulnerability attackers were already exploiting.

Silent updates will not affect users who rely solely on Google's Chrome, as that browser bundles Flash Player, and updates the Adobe software using its own background update service.

Another prominent feature in Flash Player 11.3 is a "sandboxed" plug-in for Mozilla's Firefox on Windows Vista and Windows 7, second step in Adobe's plan to stymie attacks that exploit unpatched Flash bugs.

A sandbox isolates processes on the computer, preventing or at least hindering malware that tries to push code onto a machine. Adobe sandboxed Flash Player for Chrome in late 2010 after working with Google engineers; the February release of a sandboxed plug-in for Firefox came after similar cooperation from Mozilla engineers.

Adobe plans to ship the final version of Flash Player 11.3 before the end of June.

Users who want to test drive the preview can download it from Adobe's website.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Read more about internet in Computerworld's Internet Topic Center.

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