Internet users of all ages have long griped about the inconsistent performance of Adobe Flash. The familiar broken link or black window with a “blocked” warning is a common sight for most people, but recently that interruption is for good reason: to protect users from being hacked.
Am I Using Adobe Flash?
Even if you have never heard of Flash, there’s no guarantee you haven’t used it. In the early days of YouTube and web-based video games, Flash was the add-on extension to a browser that allowed users to view and interact with rich content. The popular plug-in is still used to play videos (such as those often-shared animal videos on Facebook) across a variety of web browsers, so it’s no surprise that hackers continually take advantage of known bugs in the system to gain access to user information.
The bugs in Adobe programs have been known for years, and the company continues to offer software patches with each new violation of the system. However, the most recent abuse of vulnerabilities in the code caused several browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, to block all versions of Flash until the system is updated to a secure standard. Google also recently announced that all future versions of the Chrome browser will “pause” some of the Flash-based content on websites, including ads.
What Should I Do to Protect My Website and Social Media Accounts?
The good news is that use of Adobe Flash is dwindling. Most mobile devices, including the iPhone and Android smartphones, do not support Flash content. Even YouTube discontinued its reliance on Flash in January 2015 in favor of playing videos natively in the browser.
Nevertheless, this problem isn’t just a flash in the pan. Your computer may have legacy programs—including web browsers—that have security holes thanks to old Flash plug-ins and documents. You may not even be aware that your system is vulnerable…or that it already may have been compromised.
If you have the Flash plug-in installed on your computer, you can protect yourself in one of two ways:
Adobe recently released an update to correct known security problems with Flash. If you have not already done so, you should download the new version of Adobe Flash to make sure your interactions on Firefox and Facebook are secure.
There are ways to disable Flash (or at least, have a popup ask your permission before playing a video) on all of your web browsers. This is not a permanent step, and it can be undone at any time simply by re-enabling Flash content on your computer.
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