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Facebook’s security chief calls for Adobe Flash to be killed off

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Poor old Adobe Flash. Hardly anybody seems to love it.

And this isn’t a new phenomenon.

Remember the controversy all those years ago, when it became clear that Apple had no plans to ever support Flash on the iPhone and iPad? The late Steve Jobs even took to his keyboard to write a lengthy explanation of why he would not allow Flash on his devices – citing a number of reasons including battery life, reliability and security.

Security is, of course, likely to be a major concern of readers of the Hot for Security blog – and it’s true to say that Adobe Flash has been frequently targeted by online criminals who exploit flaws in the software to infect innocent people’s computers.

Just last week Adobe was forced to issue a patch for yet-another zero-day vulnerability that had been spotted in several exploit kits after details of the flaw became public following the massive security breach at spyware company Hacking Team.

And now Adobe has warned of two more critical vulnerabilities in Flash which are being publicly exploited. Adobe says it hopes to issue fixes for these two zero-day vulnerabilities, which could allow hackers to take control of innocent computers, sometime this week.

It’s perhaps not surprising that some think it’s time for Adobe Flash to call it a day, pack its bags, and leave town for good.

Amongst those who would be happy to see the back of Adobe Flash is Alex Stamos, Facebook’s newly-appointed security chief.

In a tweet this weekend, Stamos – who is a respected member of the security community who is credited for improving the security stance of Yahoo at his previous job – said that it was time for Adobe to announce when Flash would be killed off, and for browsers to assist by dropping support at the same time.

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“It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day.”

In a follow-up tweet, Stamos said that Adobe’s death date didn’t have to be today or tomorrow – but a date had to be set in stone for systems to be made more secure:

“Even if 18 months from now, one set date is the only way to disentangle the dependencies and upgrade the whole ecosystem at once.”

If Adobe Flash is ever going to be kicked to the kerb (as it seems it should be) then a date clearly needs to be declared to drive the push to a Flash-free world. It’s not just important for browsers, of course, but also for companies whose websites and in-house applications might rely heavily on the technology.

The problem is that perhaps Adobe doesn’t feel happy acknowledging that securing Flash is beyond them, and so is unwilling to drop the product. The truth is that the company would probably gain a lot more respect from the internet community if it worked towards this ultimate fix for the Flash problem, rather than clinging on to the belief that it might be able to one day make Flash secure.

As it is, the only people who truly seem to love Adobe Flash these days are the criminals themselves.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

4 Comments

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  • LOL!

    If ‘being unable to secure a product’ is a criteria that makes it eligible for extinction, then, well, we should power off everything and take a walk in the woods. Because no widely used web tech is ever going to be exploit-free.

    Flash is still alive because of ‘companies whose websites and in-house applications might rely heavily on the technology’. And there are TONS of those around. And none of them are in a hurry to drop everything and rework years of development in something else. Chrome deprecated NPAPI that Flash relies on for interfacing with browsers. But not before they developed PPAPI interface to replace it, and built-in Flash plugin that uses it. New MS browser, Edge, dropped support for untold holy cow technologies that IE was burdened with, including SIlverlight, MS’s answer to Flash. But, guess what, they decided to leave Flash support in,and not only that, but to make it built-in. What does that tell you? Flash is not going to go away any some time soon.

    Want me to let you in on a secret? Check it out: Adobe really *would like* to kill Flash. In fact, they stopped real work on in years ago, and been quietly neglecting it ever since. But, again, it’s too widely used, and too good at what it does for them to be able to drop it without major backlash.

    And, so, I can guarantee it that Flash will still be there, 18 months from now. And further.

  • I think I and most people on the planet agree. I blame HTML 5 and it’s lack of progress as the reason it hasn’t gone already though.

  • Another approach to get rid of this cancer would be adding it to all the AV databases as a malware and removing it from PCs. Adobe Flash is literally a piece of malware pretending to be a browser add-on.