If you’ve ever installed Adobe Flash on your computer, the software could currently be putting you at risk for identity theft. In July, Google and Mozilla both dropped the default support for Adobe Flash in their respective web browsers after it was discovered that the plug-in software was especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. Facebook’s chief of security had also called for Adobe to set an “end-of-life” date for the 20-year-old platform.
At the beginning of December, the software was renamed to “Adobe Animate CC,” and while the new name does signify new features and changes, a solution to its various security problems is unfortunately not one of them.
Wired magazine reported that Facebook is now working more closely with Adobe to patch some of the security holes in the many flash-supported games on the social media site, but Facebook declined to make an official statement on this partnership. Forrester Research principal analyst, Jeffrey Hammonds, told Wired that this partnership doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook has changed its mind about Adobe’s end-of-life date.
“Even if you have an end-of-life date, that would probably be a couple of years into the future,” Hammonds said. “Why would you not continue to address security gaps as they come up between now and then?”
Adobe Flash is used to run video, animation and games on web pages and has been the standard for these features since the software was created in 1996. Adobe Flash’s popularity surged in 2005 when YouTube began using it on its site. Today, it’s used a little less frequently, but if you have a Windows PC, use an older browser or have been prompted to install it by a web site, there’s a good chance Adobe Flash is on your computer right now, potentially putting your system and personal information at risk. Chase Cunningham, a cyber threat expert at the security company FireHost, told Yahoo Tech that 97 to 98 percent of systems have a version of Flash running on them.
When computer scripts are written in Flash, they can access the memory on a computer, creating vulnerabilities to attacks. Cunningham explained that any website that has access to your computer’s memory is able to make changes on the machine itself.
For this reason, Flash has been one of the biggest resources for hackers. Back in July, Adobe had to fix 38 different vulnerabilities in Flash Player, and it was revealed that the company Hacking Team had taken advantage of flaws in Flash to sell spyware to oppressive governments in Sudan and Saudi Arabia. On top of all that, Flash can also cause systems to crash.
Luckily, you don’t need to use Adobe Flash anymore. Most websites now use HTML 5 to support videos, including YouTube and Vimeo, so it’s best practice to uninstall or block the software from your computer. If you eventually encounter a site that does prompt you to download Adobe Flash to use it, Yahoo recommends installing it directly from Adobe’s website, explaining that fake installation pop-ups have often led to spyware infestations. You also have the option to install Flash temporarily and delete it when you’re done using it.
If you’ve deleted Flash from your computer but are still concerned about the state of your identity and security, the first thing to do is make sure you have up to date antivirus software and spyware removal software installed. You should also consider investing in Identity Guard’s Total Protection. This service will not only monitor your credit files, identity and public records to look out for you and your identity, but will also provide you with keyboard encryption software and antivirus software all in one plan.