Flash files in Firefox blocked

15 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adobe Flash Woes Prove Steve Jobs Was Right.

Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome browsers blocked old versions Adobe’s animation software – often used to play online videos – following news reports that hackers were using a security bug to take over peoples’ computers.

I won’t pretend to be Steve Jobs—I don’t even own a mock turtleneck—but I have to repeat his words from April 2010: “Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content.” Flash is a constantly exploited, superannuated bit of technology that useful in the early days of multimedia in web browsers, and now deserves to die. It appears to show that Hacking Team has been dishonest about the nations on its client list and at the same time it was a wakeup call that Hacking Team is not unique in providing subversive tools and zero day exploits to customers—including government agencies.

A message now appears saying that Flash — the plug-in that enables animation, browser games and other graphics online — is vulnerable, along with a message that Mozilla reserves the right to block software that “seriously compromises Firefox security.” The ban is temporary — it will stay in place as long as there’s a version of Flash with publicly known security problems, Mozilla said. (Adobe is working on a fix.) If users really want to run Flash to view videos or use other Flash-based Web tools, they can do so — as long as they read a security warning from Mozilla first. One thing we’ve learned from the Hacking Team hack is that Adobe Flash has serious issues and hackers know how to exploit those issues to execute malicious code.

This latest dust-up comes after leaked documents showed Hacking Team, an Italian firm that sells digital surveillance tools to governments, had exploited a flaw in Flash. Facebook’s chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, said on Twitter that he wants Adobe to set a deadline to kill Flash once and for all, so that developers will move quickly off the old standard. Galileo monitors target systems by installing an agent and security researchers have scoured the leaked Galileo source code to figure out how Galileo manages to install the agent. After that technique leaked, other hackers quickly began to use it as well, according to researchers at security companies like FireEye FEYE -0.04% and Trend Micro 4704.TO +0.82%. But online security experts have raised alarms for years about Flash, because hackers often exploit problems within the nearly ubiquitous software to gain control of others’ computers.

Mozilla said it set Firefox set to automatically update Flash. “Because the majority of attacks we are seeing are exploiting software installations that are not up-to-date on the latest security updates, users should update their installations immediately as the best possible defence against potential future attacks,” an Adobe spokesman said. Overseas tourists conquering the summit of Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain at 3,776 meters, can now use mobile devices to share their experience via social networking websites or, if so inclined, check their work emails. Alex Stamos, chief security officer for Facebook, took to Twitter to share his thoughts on Adobe Flash: Steve Jobs is looking very prophetic right now. Docomo’s service “is aimed at attracting more overseas visitors to Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures, home to Mount Fuji,” the company said in a statement.

Back in 2010 Jobs penned a 1700-word explanation for why he refused to incorporate support for Adobe Flash into Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. The world’s top Internet companies have taken steps to move on from the older standard, particularly as mobile devices have gained popularity, and extended support for other formats such as HTML 5. Adobe responded with an open letter of its own and an attempt to work around Apple to deliver Flash support in spite of Jobs’ objections but ultimately failed. Depicted in famous ukiyo-e woodblock prints and referenced in countless literature, Mount Fuji is considered a symbol of Japan and has long been a site of worship.

When Flash first appeared as a browser plug-in in 1996 from Shockwave (later acquired by Adobe), multimedia on the web or through native clients was exceedingly primitive. Flash had its purpose, encoding a multimedia presentation, video, or interactive experience once, and letting it play across all browsers and computer platforms that supported the plug-in. Shockwave, and then Adobe, did the heavy lifting of writing the plug-in software and developing the architecture, so Flash designers and programmers could just build on the platform. While Java was also an integrated part of many browsers, and seemed briefly a critical part of having powerful client-side apps, that’s not how things shook out. The homogeneity of developing in Java and programming or using Flash still relied on a massive amount of heterogeneity: all the different versions of the Java Virtual Machine and the Flash Player required.

Since Flash Player and client-side Java were not the core focus of Adobe and Oracle (which purchased Java’s creator and once-mighty workstation company, Sun Microsystems), respectively, there was no sensible way for them to put operating-system scale focus on a business sideline. Java found its purpose: a parallel version is the native language for Android apps, and Java remains in heavy use in server-side application programming. On the client side, while software continues to be available, it has to be installed on most platforms, isn’t available for iOS, and is essentially a niche product.

If you install a Flash blocker and visit many sites that have video, interactive content, or rich-media advertising, it’ll seem like a good part of the site is broken. Google, Opera, and Mozilla (makers of Firefox) pursued ostensibly patent-free standards, including the Google-backed VP8 (better known as WebM for a method of using it with HTML5) and Ogg Theora for video. But the competing formats were under clouds: they didn’t have advantages over H.264 except related to patents, and most sites weren’t encoding using them. Firefox and Chrome disabled older versions of Flash this week uniformly—and remotely, I might add, through their process of checking for vulnerability updates in plug-ins—in newer versions of their browsers.

There will be some disruption as software makers and website developers who have delayed the inevitable are faced with a reckoning—but they had a glimpse of that already this week. Adobe has moved away from Flash in recent years, ending a misguided path that didn’t serve its customers or web users well when they couldn’t demonstrate that Flash could work on mobile.

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