FlashPlayerFlash has always been a security liability for users but this week, two major corporations drew attention to how unacceptable the web plugin has become.  Following the most recent Flash security vulnerability announcements, heads of both Facebook and Mozilla Firefox have come out against the hack prone web app.

HTML5 has adopted most of the functionality once unique to Flash, so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that people have started to rally against the aging and vulnerable application.   Flash animosity reached a boiling point last week after revelations that the spyware giant known as the Hacking Team had been using Flash to remotely take over people’s computers and infect them with malware.  Facebook’s Head of Security, Alex Stamos, was the first to publically admonish Flash, with his statement, “It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash.”  Mozilla followed suit two days later with the announcement that all versions of Flash had been blocked from its Firefox browser.  Mozilla has since backed down from the complete ban and reinstated support for the patched-version of Flash, but isn’t budging on outdated versions.  If users want to use Flash, it will be their own responsibility to keep it updated or lose access to its functionality.

For years Flash has been the de facto standard for website video and animation.  Many websites embraced Flash for the creation of innovative and highly interactive web design.  Every computer had Flash because it was needed to take full advantage of the internet.  Unfortunately, this ubiquity also made Flash the perfect target for hackers;   a trend that has continued even as the popularity of Flash as a vital web application has waned.

While Adobe continues to release patches for Flash, the frequency and ease with which hackers find ways to bypass its defenses borders on ridiculous.  The problem is Flash is a single application that runs on (almost) any browser and computer, regardless of operating system.  Using it to distribute malware is universal and no other platform can make that claim.

Many other companies, such as Google Chrome, already have plans to phase out Flash.  While a few holdouts are likely to remain, the question is, do you care enough to keep the Flash player around?  Or perhaps the better question is, will you notice when it’s gone?

– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Webmaster and Lead Designer