Say Goodbye to Adobe Flash Player
New Year’s Eve celebrations are likely to be tamer than usual this year due to social distancing requirements, but IT professionals everywhere will probably still break out the noisemakers and confetti. When the clock strikes midnight, they’ll finally be able to say goodbye and good riddance to the security-plagued Adobe Flash Player.
Adobe announced in 2017 that it would no longer distribute or update Flash Player as of Dec. 31, 2020. A once-revolutionary browser plugin that changed the way we look at online content when it was introduced in the late 1990s, Flash Player had devolved into a notorious source of security vulnerabilities.
Flash Player helped transform first-generation web pages from dull, static and text-heavy sites to dynamic, interactive pages featuring multimedia content and animation. It quickly gained favor with users as well as designers and developers. According to one 2010 study, 99 percent of all computer users had Flash installed.
However, hackers quickly figured out that browser plugins had inherent security weaknesses. Antivirus software generally cannot detect malicious activity in plugins. In addition, plugins are inviting targets because they require broad access permissions in order to operate, allowing hackers to steal login credentials by exposing the plugin.
A search of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s national vulnerability database returns 1,123 records for Flash Player dating back to 2002. One particular vulnerability was considered to be the single most-exploited software flaw of 2019.
While security issues mounted, new technologies made Flash Player increasingly irrelevant. In announcing its decision to end support for Flash Player, Adobe noted that open standards such as HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have matured and now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered.
The major browser vendors favor these open standards. Google has been phasing out support for Flash in its Chrome browser since 2017 and will remove it by the end of 2020. Microsoft operating systems and the Edge and Internet Explorer browsers will no longer support Flash Player, nor will Mozilla Firefox.
Adobe will remove the Flash Player download pages from its website as of Jan. 1, 2021, and Flash-based content will be blocked from running in Flash Player. Although most browsers will block Flash, security experts recommend uninstalling it throughout your environment to eliminate any security threats.
Adobe provides instructions on how to uninstall Flash here, but an uninstall may not address all of your existing Flash dependencies. Flash was really the only way to host dynamic content for the past two decades, and researchers suggest there may be millions of websites that still run Flash content. The technology survey site W3Techs has estimated that about 5 percent of the world’s 1 billion-plus websites — roughly 50 million — still use Flash. You can run a Flash test here to determine if your site still uses Flash.
Countless organizations have also been utilizing Flash content for years in their e-learning courses, document management tools and company intranet sites. If those aren’t updated by Dec. 31, you’ll have to use old, unpatched versions of your browser to continue using those systems. What’s more, you’d have to disable the browser’s automatic update mechanism to prevent it from disabling Flash. With no updates or patches forthcoming, the risk factor would be astronomical.
The better approach, by far, is to work now to migrate any Flash content to an alternate technology. Given the short time remaining before the end-of-life date, Adobe partner HARMAN will be offering some options during the transition. HARMAN may provide support for Flash running in an internal environment not accessible from the Internet and enable you to create downloadable applications for distribution to external users.
Verteks can assess your current environment to discover any Flash content, and we can help you develop a plan for migrating, rewriting or retiring those assets. Although Flash Player had a pivotal role in the development of the modern web, it is time to turn the page on this technology.