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Disable Adobe Flash Or Get Hacked!

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Adobe has released a patch for its web browser Flash plugins to close a dangerous security vulnerability that was reportedly used in the past few weeks to deploy malware (including nasty ransomware) to computers regardless if the user clicks flash ads or not… This could have been a major issue if the bandits didn’t (apparently) botched the implementation of the exploit into one of the most popular malware-as-a-service kits.

As it happens, even with the patch released, there is still the danger of getting infected if the automated update service is disabled, so caution is advised…

What is Adobe Flash?

According to Wikipedia:

Adobe Flash (formerly called Macromedia Flash and Shockwave Flash) is a multimedia and software platform used for creating vector graphics, animation, browser games, rich Internet applications, desktop applications, mobile applications and mobile games. Flash displays text, vector and raster graphics to provide animations, video games and applications. It allows streaming of audio and video, and can capture mouse, keyboard, microphone and camera input.

In plain English, Adobe Flash is what gave us for many years a bit of fun on the Internet: Youtube movies, animated websites and pages, games for the kids and great online presentations. But the platform has become nearly obsolete due to advances in how we can design and build websites and (most importantly) due to a huge range of security vulnerabilities causing grief to all IT professionals around the world.

Today, it is no longer needed, as most websites have adopted the new technologies (HTML5 in particular). In fact, Adobe killed the mobile plugin, making many people happy in the process, with less crashes of the smartphones operating system and less battery consumption…

However, most users are (apparently) unaware of this development and keep the plugin on their computers, mostly using old versions and forgetting to update. Even worse, the auto-update feature of the plugin is disabled or malfunctioning, creating a very dangerous situation.

Why You Should Disable All Flash Plugins In Browsers

The Adobe Flash plugin enable the Internet browser to display and play the animated content in a flash movie. As more and more web designers move away from this technology, the Flash Player plugin in your Internet browser is not really that needed any more – it actually can do more damage that bring benefits – so, the logical next step is to get rid of it. As a matter of fact, most IT professionals advise that these plugins should be completely disabled or un-installed. Many users around the world are starting to follow this advice, for a simple reason – to protect their computers from being infected or hacked.

The number of known vulnerability issues in the Adobe Flash platform is staggering and it does not seem to slow down. The recently released update patches the latest vulnerability, one that has been already reported as being used actively to deploy attacks, as part of the so-called Magnitude Exploit Kit used by criminals around the world. The kit – a complex malware-as-a-service platform that includes highly sophisticated automation to deliver a long list of attacks – has been active since late 2013 and appears to be providing the maintainer(s) with a nice income stream calculated in mid 2014 at around $60,000 to $100,000 weekly (yes, you are reading correct: WEEKLY).

The most important aspect to remember in this context is that the malware platform is used to deliver ransomware which is highly profitable (leading to the above numbers) – hence very popular amongst the business-oriented black hat hackers –  a very dynamic and sharp-minded bunch of people. So, if not for other reason but to avoid future similar threats, businesses should definitely look into making sure this technology isn’t used on their computers any more, except in situations where it is part of some important business related activity, when other countermeasures should be taken (which is highly unlikely as far as I can imagine).

New  Threats Are Discovered All The Time

More than 50 Adobe Flash vulnerabilities have been published since the beginning of this year and the list continues to grow. Many of these vulnerabilities go undiscovered for weeks, sometimes for months and it takes time to be addresses in an update, allowing malicious programmers to use them to deploy malware or simply take over computers without the users’ knowledge.

The hassle to keep such plugins updated and in line with the business’ security requirements definitely doesn’t justify keeping it – especially when today’s office workers use two (sometimes three) different browsers due to compatibility issues in the online platforms they use. The move to cloud based services makes the Internet browser a very important business tool and having security holes in it is definitely not something to be accepted. Also unjustified is wasting time updating a useless component…

How to disable Adobe Flash plugin

In most browsers, the users have access to enable or disable the plugins, which allows fixing this situation really easy. Below is short list with instructions how to do this in the most popular browsers today: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer (Edge included) and Mozilla Firefox. A simple web search can bring up results to cope with other browsers for anyone interested.

  • Google Chrome: type chrome://plugins/ in the address bar and hit Enter. The list of currently installed plugins will show up in the page – click “disable” and you’re done.
  • Internet Explorer: go to Tools -> Internet options -> Programs tab and click on Manage add-ons, where you can find all the plugins and disable.
  • Mozilla Firefox: click the menu then “add-ons” and you’ll get a list of installed add-ons, where you can click “disable”.

Once disabled, this threat is gone and your business infrastructure is more safe. plus, your employees and/or IT personnel won’t have to waste time on updating a useless plugin 🙂

PS MAKE SURE IT IS DISABLED IN ALL BROWSERS, not just the one you’re using most…

 

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