DATA DOCTORS

How to keep your computer safe in a post-Adobe Flash world

Dec 19, 2020, 5:45 AM
(Photo by Ulrich Perrey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
(Photo by Ulrich Perrey/picture alliance via Getty Images)
(Photo by Ulrich Perrey/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Q: With Flash expiring soon, what should I do to make sure my computer is safe?

A: Adobe’s multimedia platform known as ‘Flash’ was an instrumental tool in the evolution of the Internet that brought animation and video capabilities to a text-based world.

Some of the most amazing interactive experiences in the early days of the Internet were made possible by Flash – it was probably how you played your first web-based games – but in today’s world, it’s a huge security risk.

At one point, it was so popular that many scams were focused on tricking users into ‘updating’ Flash in order to see salacious videos, which was nothing more than a ploy to sneak malicious code onto your computer.

Because of security concerns, most major browsers started disabling or blocking Flash content some time ago while the industry migrated to the more secure HTML5 standard for multimedia coding.

Adobe’s support for Flash will end on December 31, 2020 and the Flash Player utility will start blocking Flash content after January 12, 2021.

The major browsers will also completely disable Flash from running after the end of the year, so for all intents and purposes, it’s a dead technology.

While there may still be some websites that you visit that require Flash to properly function, these should be older websites that likely haven’t been updated for years and likely won’t ever be updated.

If you own a website that relies on Flash to properly render, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll need to update the code to reflect the current standards if you want it to be relevant to the rest of the world.

Uninstall Flash Player

Depending upon how old your current system is, you may have the Flash Player utility installed, which should be removed for security purposes.

A quick search of your system for ‘Flash Player’ should tell you if the program is installed on either a Windows or macOS computer.

If you find it on your Windows-based computer, you can properly remove it by downloading Adobe’s Flash Uninstaller utility for Windows.

For macOS users, the uninstall tool will be based on the version of Apple’s operating system that you’re using, so you’ll want to start by determining which version you are running.

To do this, click on the Apple icon in the upper left-hand corner, then on ‘About This Mac’ to show the exact version in numeric form (example: 10.14.6).

Once you have that, you’ll need to download the uninstaller that’s designed for your version here.

Blocking Browsers

You really don’t need to do anything in your browser, unless you know you manually made Flash available, as they’ve been blocking it by default for some time now.

In coming updates, the actual Flash plugin will be completely removed from your browser, so make sure you get the latest updates when they are made available.

Old Flash-Based Games

One of the few remaining uses of Flash/Shockwave was to play old-school web-based games that were developed back in the day.

Fortunately, there’s a safer way to play these classic games using BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint web-based game preservation project.

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How to keep your computer safe in a post-Adobe Flash world