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How and why your sites may break, and what to do, after applying March 2020 update to CF2018 or 2016

This is a critical warning to anyone who may apply the recent CF2018 Update 8 or CF2016 Update 14, released Tuesday of this week. To be clear, I do not mean with this warning to suggest that you should NOT apply the update! It implements an important security fix.

Instead, it's that after applying it, your CF web sites served via IIS or Apache WILL likely break initially, until you take one at least and perhaps two extra steps. The good news is that these steps are both easy and documented by Adobe in the update technotes, but they do require that someone do them, if needed. Let me explain.

[Update: I did an abbreviated version of this post on the Adobe CF portal: Three reasons your sites may break, and how to fix them, after applying March 2020 update to CF2018 or 2016. Note I also titled it differently. Just trying many ways to get people's attention. That post may interest some, either to read first (but my TLDR below also tries to abbreviate things also), or especially if you may prefer to give others a link to a post on this matter that is not as "dense" as this one. :-) I do point to this post from there, of course, for the many additional details that some may appreciate.]

Sadly, because many people don't bother to read the CF update technotes (linked to below), and they just apply the CF updates, they are not noticing this issue until they or their users start screaming because their sites are down. There's also a fair bit of "screaming" in the CF community, and folks responding may not know the info that I (or Adobe) have shared, to get things "working again", so I hope this helps bring some calm, and most important the clear solution/s needed.

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ColdFusion 2018 update 7 released today...do you "need" it?

Adobe released update 7 for CF2018 today, and as it includes a security fix, some might think I'd say everyone should apply it.

But note first that the security aspect applies only to those running CF on Windows (and even then not ALL users of CF on Windows, as I will explain).

Then again, the update also includes a bug fix to a CF Admin, for a UI issue (related to updates, in fact), and if you need that, then you do want the fix (regardless of your OS).

So who needs it? If you need a little more guidance, I offer some clarification, as well as links from Adobe for more.

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When and how to upgrade CF web server connector, easier since CF2016

Did you know that when you update ColdFusion, there is often a need to also update the web server connector (for IIS and/or Apache)? In this post, I discuss how you can know when to do it (Adobe makes that easier since CF2016), as well as how to do it (also easier since CF2016), and why it's important.

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Preview available for new ColdFusion updates for CF2016 and 2018

Update (Nov 20, 2019): Adobe announced today that they'd come out with the "final" versions of this pair of "preview" updates. If you already applied either one, you don't need to do the update, as they are unchanged from the preview. But do note that if you changed your CF Admin update "settings" feature to point to the new "preview" feed url, you should use the button there to revert back to the default update feed url.

Adobe has announced today (Nov 13, 2019) new preview updates for ColdFusion 2016 (preview update 13) and 2018 (preview update 6).

https://coldfusion.adobe.com/2019/11/preview-builds-coldfusion-2018-release-update-6-and-coldfusion-2016-release-update-13-released

These updates address issues reported with the Sept 2019 updates (which I was tracking and warned about when the update was released). If you experienced any of those or other issues discussed in Adobe's post, you should try out the new updates while they are in this preview mode (to share with Adobe any remaining concerns) over the next couple of weeks.

Notice also my initial comment in that Adobe post, with a couple of potentially important reminders regarding the preview, as well as a reminder of my plea for a new approach to updates that would allow one to select to get only the latest security updates of a new update (deferring any bug fixes or new features to the next update), which could have helped many in the case of the Sept updates, that had so many issues seemingly caused by new features and bug fixes.

Adobe should consider a different model for handling CF security fixes

I would like to publicly propose a new model that Adobe should consider following for handling CF updates, specifically allowing for one to implement security fixes as soon as possible, without being ill-effected by possible problems introduced by other bug fixes/new features.

There is precedent for the proposal I am making, in the way Oracle has in the past handled this problem with Java updates. Let me explain.

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Folks may want to hold off on the Sep 24 2019 CF updates

Update (Nov 20, 2019): Adobe announced today that they'd come out with a new set of updates to fix the problems in the Sep 24 updates. Today's updates address the various issues reported below about the Sept update. It's important to proceed with performing the updates, for the benefit of the security updates as I discussed below back in Sept.

I shared here Tuesday the news that Adobe had announced there were new updates for CF2018 and 2016, released that day.

But as has happened every few releases, a lot of folks are reporting various problems, enough for me to say that folks may want to hold off on applying these updates, which I realize is a risky proposition since the update includes security fixes. More on that below.

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Update Nov 13: Adobe has released a preview of new updates, meant to address the issues in these Sep 2019 updates. For more, see my post: https://www.carehart.org/blog/client/index.cfm/2019/11/13/preview_available_for_new_coldfusion_updates//

Update Sep 27: Adobe has commented below (Sep 27) saying that there are now fixes available for the bugs reported (but that you must request each directly from them, and that an update refresh is not planned). See Vamsee's comment below, and my reply to that (asking for a bit more detail). For now, I have added any links I've seen to fixes for any of these.
--

Of course, if you need something in the update and want to try it, just be sure to do ample testing, and check out some of the problems people are reporting below. And beware that some issues may only happen under load, so you may not find them in your own testing.

Otherwise, let's see if Adobe may either "refresh" the update or may well "pull" it, as they did with the Feb 2019 updates for CF 2016 and 11, when they replaced those with another a week later (see the "Note" about it at the top of that page).

For more, read on.

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Sep 2019 updates released for CF2018 and CF2016, with a strange twist

Adobe has announced today Sep 24 2019 that there are new updates for CF2018 (update 5) and CF2016 (update 12).

As an update to this post, I have offered a new post, pointing out that many people are having problems with this set of updates here. So I would recommend folks hold off on applying it for now. I will update this (and that) if we hear new info from Adobe.

Beyond adding important security and bug fixes as seems typical, this update offers several new or changed features, as well as updated support for things (such as Java 12), as is also often the case.

Uniquely, though, this update is the first ever to require that you must first have updated to the PREVIOUS update before applying this new one. So those on CF2018 must first be on update 4 before going to this new update 5, while those on CF2016 must be first on update 11 before going to this new update 12.

As always, I share a bit more here, for my readers.

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Updates released today for CF2018, CF2016, and CF11

While word has been shared elsewhere about this today already, I wanted to share here also that there were updates released today for CF2018, CF2016, and CF11.

And I share a bit more here, for my readers.

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CF updates temporarily missing. Get them here

If you've tried to get the update files for cf 2018, 2016, 11, or 10 in recent days, whether from the CF Admin "updates" page or the update technote pages, you've found the update jar files are missing and unavailable, due to a temporary problem. Here's how to get them in the meantime.

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CF security update (March 1 2019), part 2: further details, prevention, and more

This is my part 2 post which follows onto the Part 1, released the night of March 1, when the new CF updates were released as an emergency update. If you've not yet read that, do that first, to get some basic info and needed context for what follows.

And if you HAVE already read part 1, if it was before Saturday morning, do go back and reread it. I had added some important info that I thought shouldn't wait to Part 2, which I knew could take me a while. See especially the sections there, "A brief introduction to the vulnerability and the fix", "Should you be worried?", and "What if you can't apply the update immediately, and can't wait for part 2?".

And my apologies for the delay in getting part 2 out. For various reasons, including related to additional research work I'm doing on this exploit beyond CF, I was unable to post this then. Better late than never, I hope. Indeed, I had listed quite a lot in Part 1 that I hoped to cover in a part 2. I don't want to delay getting this out any later, so I will get done today what I can and post that, and carry over into a part 3 (or beyond) whatever remains. There are some natural breaks, fortunately. Thanks for your patience.

Following are what I cover here in Part 2:

  • More detail about the vulnerability and what was "fixed"
  • Wouldn't an antivirus package on the server detect this sort of trojan?
  • How to add further protection from it (especially if you may be unable to implement the update for some reason)
  • Considering running a security scan of your CFML code
  • Consider implementing a web application firewall
  • How to prevent execution of the files used in the attack, if they may already be on your server
  • Another benefit of applying the latest updates
  • What about Lucee?

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