Why Google and Mozzilla Dropped Adobe Flash


Google and Mozilla each announced this week that their Web browsers will be dropping default support for Adobe Flash, as a result of the plug-in software’s newly discovered vulnerabilities to cyber attacks.

These moves came only a few days after Facebook’s chief of security called for Adobe to set an ‘end of life’ date for the oft-exploited 20-year-old platform.

Even if you don’t exactly know what Adobe Flash is, this is important news.

However, while web browsers have opted to drop the plug-in, it’s important you are also aware removing Flash will disrupt your video experience on many websites.

So what is Flash, exactly?

Adobe Flash is a software platform that runs video, animation, and games inside of Web pages.

Flash was born at the dawn of the Web in 1996 and quickly became the standard for Web video, especially after a little startup called YouTube began using it in 2005.

These days, most Web sites and apps use different technologies for the same purpose.

What are problems with Flash?

The very thing that made Flash so popular — its ability to run complex scripts from websites you visit — can also be used for malicious purposes.

Computer scripts written in Flash can directly access the memory on your computer, which is just inviting attacks, or ‘exploits,’ says Chase Cunningham, a cyber threat expert at security company FireHost.

“Any time a site is able to access your computer’s memory, it’s able to make changes on the local machine itself [your PC]. That’s when you run into exploits.”

Flash has long been one of the biggest attack methods of choice for cyber crooks and spying governments, as security vulnerabilities turn up on an almost daily basis.

Just this month, Adobe put out security alerts and fixes for 38 vulnerabilities in Flash Player.

Last week, it came out that a company called Hacking Team had been using previously unknown flaws in Flash to create spyware that it sold to oppressive governments in countries such as Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Flash also uses up a lot of computing resources and can bog systems down. “We … know firsthand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash,” wrote Steve Jobs in an Apple blog post from April 2010.

Do I have Flash on my computer?

If you are using a Windows PC, rely on an older browser, or were prompted by a website to install it, you probably do.

In October 2010, Apple announced that it would no longer install Flash Player on its computers — including its Safari Web browser — although users could install it on their own if they wanted to.

The latest version of Mozilla Firefox launched with a block for Flash Player (though after an update Tuesday by Adobe, Mozilla has re-enabled use of the plugin in its browser).

Google’s Chrome browser comes with Flash, but it is disabled by default.

However, you may have installed or enabled Flash Player if a website prompted you to.

You can visit this page on Adobe’s website to see if the computer you’re using has Flash installed.

What about my phone?

Chances are good that Flash is not on your smartphone or tablet.

Apple completely banned Flash from its mobile devices running the iOS operating system, such as the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

Apple’s rejection of Flash helped spur Web and software developers to use other technologies for delivering video or animating games.

Google’s Android mobile software briefly supported Flash, but it was generally choppy and used up more battery than other formats.

In 2012, Adobe dropped support for Android, and Flash has been absent since Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), which came out that same year. (Adobe also dropped support for BlackBerry and Windows Phone.)

If you have an iPhone, or any other smartphone bought in the past couple of years, you don’t have Flash.

Don’t I need it on my computer?

Most websites, but not all, have switched over to another video format, called HTML 5.

It’s the default on both YouTube and Vimeo, for example.

Once Flash is gone, will older videos still play on my computer?

If a website requires Flash to display videos or animation, you will need to install Flash to watch it.

It’s typical for Flash-based sites to display alerts when they detect that Flash is not installed.

If you see this, make sure you download and install Flash directly from Adobe.com, as fake installation popups that lead to spyware are an age-old trick employed by untrustworthy sites.

Photo credit: Adobe

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